ESPERATE MOTHERS PERPETRATE DESPERATE ACTS. Deep down I knew it would end badly, but I stifled that knowledge like Sister Nora stifled our individuality so many years before. I’ve never had a good experience with organized religion, yet somehow, I believed it might be different. It wasn’t.
We’d been living in Turkey for three years and in one particularly weak, homesick moment, I issued a proclamation. I decreed that because we’d spent the first years of our son’s life in his father’s native land, we should spend the next few in mine- Middle America. It’s important to note that I had not actually lived in the Midwest for nearly twenty years, yet somehow I was certain that in order to provide one’s young with a perfect, Norman Rockwell-esque childhood, grandparents had to be geographically nearby. If we left one set of grandparents in Turkey, it was imperative we then be near the other set in Middle America. My husband, The Turk, gave into my whim as husbands with crazy wives are often wont to do. As we prepared for our transcontinental relocation, The Turk struggled daily to master the correct pronunciation of my parent’s new home state, Missouri, calling it Misery instead. It took about three weeks for the wisdom in his error to surface and the shine to fog on my American Dream as I realized that my idyllic Midwest was stuck in 1979- sans Sister Nora.
The Turk with his latent-Muslim-tendencies, was not crazy about us partaking in something so overtly Christian, but I assured him that Jesus was only the backdrop and most certainly the ABC’s would be center stage.
Our new hometown in rural America held few offerings in the vein of Gymboree, Kindermuzik, or Mommy and Me, all things I’d grown to associate as American parenting standards. It seemed that in the Greater Ozark Region, unless you were a teen mother utilizing the school issued day care program that allowed you to complete tenth grade with little disruption, or your cage fighting club had its own daycare, there were few opportunities to socialize one’s offspring. So when someone suggested we try the toddler program offered by the Christian Church which met for two hours every other week, I lunged at the chance believing, even I could fake a little Christianity for the good of my child. But as my grandma always said, “Don’t bother putting lipstick on that old sow. She’ll still be a pig.” Oink.
The Turk with his latent-Muslim-tendencies, was not crazy about us partaking in something so overtly Christian, but I assured him that Jesus was only the backdrop and most certainly the ABC’s would be center stage. Week one was mildly uncomfortable with the stories of salvation made for toddlers, and the passing around of a battered and moldy baby Jesus so all the little cherubs could drip snot onto him as they gave him a “Happy Birthday Hug,” but it was Christmastime so I went with it. Even a heathen like me is prone to finding a little religion during the holidays. It was during our second week that it became apparent that this was not a preschool program designed to get moms out of the house and provide a chance for the under three set to kick back and socialize, rather, this was a training camp set out to make innocent toddlers into midget crusaders for Christ.
By the time our second session rolled around after a long holiday hiatus, we’d been housebound for an entire week with unbearably cold temperatures and a two-day snowstorm resulting in my willingness to sacrifice a bit of my son’s soul to the Crusades. As we set about the twenty-minute ordeal of snow boots and various sundry polar accessories, I began to grow excited by the prospect of grown-up English conversation. Unfortunately, from our initial interaction, session two began to barrel downhill like an unmanned freight train as I made the fatal error of uttering the word “Muslim” in the presence of the devout and reborn. I didn’t realize multiculturalism wasn’t trendy at the First Christian Church of Middle-of-Nowhere Missouri.
In Turkey, as well as most Muslim cultures, it is a tradition to make an elaborate and delicious dessert called aşure during the month of January. During my first year in Turkey, the women in our building schooled me in the basics of aşure and I’d continued the tradition as an important component to our multi-ethnic familial identity. Aşure takes nothing short of two days to make and includes over fifteen different ingredients from sugar and spices to garbanzo beans and pomegranate seeds. The Turks say that if you give it away, it will bring you and yours good luck and prosperity and I’m all for something that might send a lotto win or one of those giant Publishers Clearinghouse checks my direction. New to the area and naïve about protocol with the holier-than-thou, I thought it appropriate to bring some for my son’s teacher, Miss Amy. As we handed off the bowl of Turkish goodness, I began explaining the history and erroneously uttered the most unfavorable word possible in the presence of the devout Christians of small town Missouri – Muslim. “It’s a Muslim tradition and we do it every year.” I perkily stated. Now granted, I have no formal audio recording to submit as proof, but I’m quite sure I heard an audible gasp from the other mothers as they pulled their angels closer and wrapped protective arms around to serve as a barrier between we newcomers from Turkey well versed in Muslim traditions and certain to have ties to Al Qaeda.
The Great Midget Jihad continues...