I was born in 1956 as the youngest of 5 siblings in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district. My family was from a segment that used to be defined as middle class. Our soup would not be missing from the top of our stove, but we could not list our wishes to our family. We had a self-sufficient, small life. Our time was very different from now. We used to live a much simpler life. Maybe we didn’t know… We didn’t know, we didn’t care, and I think we were more introverted but happier.
In my time, people used to marry at a young age. Girls did not read. For example, I couldn’t finish primary school. Even if I couldn’t say that my family wanted it that way, it was because my family couldn’t tell me what it means and how important it is to read. Maybe they didn’t know either.
Actually, I am one of the lucky ones of that period. I’m going to tell you the story of how I fell in love with my husband, and how we’ve been traveling companions all these years.
I was 12 years old. My elder brother was getting married. I went to his wedding in my best clothes. There was an 18 year old boy playing the guitar in the team that played live music on the stage. In fact, he was the child of our neighborhood. He was so handsome. Black eyebrow, black eye… I did stare at him all night and I was terrified that I would be caught staring at him. My heart was pounding, but I couldn’t stop looking at him. I think that was the first time I realized my interest in the opposite sex. When I saw Mehmet for the first time, it was as if thousands of butterflies were born inside me. I couldn’t take my eyes off this boy all night. I even remember that when the wedding was over and everyone dispersed, I was unhappy because I thought I would never see him again. His face was so engraved in my mind that in the years to come, when I thought of marriage, I always thought of his face.
Kamile Teyze was Mehmet’s mother and she always came to visit us and was close friends with my mother. Whenever she talked about his son and complained to my mother about him, no matter what room I was in, I would run to them and listen to what Mehmet was doing. Mehmet was one of the most popular young people of the time in our neighborhood, he was quite sociable, living in Germany, studying there and earning his living by playing the guitar.. Sometimes I would compare him to myself. And I feel like, he could never love a simple girl like me.
Years passed, I was now a 16 year old girl. One day my grandfather came home and said that they were thinking of marrying me off with a friend’s son.. He said my fiancee was in the military, his family had gone to pick him up, and that they’ll be coming soon for the engagement ceremony. I didn’t know what to feel. I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t even ask who it was. In our time, it was not uncommon to go on dates and travel as it is now. Our elder family would decide who we would marry.
When they came to for the engagement ceremony, I had sneaked through the kitchen door with my sister and spying on the people who had entered to home. While I was waiting anxiously for who would come, that guitar playing boy, who I couldn’t take my eyes off at the weeding, entered. My heart felt like it was going to explode. I cannot tell you the happiness I felt at that moment. The person I fell in love with without even knowing his name came to marry me.
I never got to look at his face when I went in to offer the treats. I thought that if our eyes met, he would understand that this little girl in front of his, whom he never knew, was in love with him and that she had been listening to his adventures from his mother for years. I guess I never lifted my head off the floor to hide it. I sat on the chair at the far end of the room. I remember he was wearing a stamped gray trousers and gray socks.
Engagement ceremony in Turkey is a little different from other cultures. Before the couples get married, the groom’s family asks the bride’s family for permission to add their daughter to their family. They can only marry if the girl’s family approves.
I actually knew my husband’s mother, Kamile Aunt, from the neighborhood. I could never hear the conversation going on in the room. But as I recall, Aunt Kamile was restless. Then I heard his voice. Looking towards me; “Can I have a glass of water?” he said. That’s when we made eye contact with my mother in law, and the woman smiled at me and sighed. Of course, I didn’t understand what was going on then. I got up slowly and went to the kitchen and came back with a glass of water. And when I went to him and handed him the water, for the first time, I lifted my head from the ground and looked at his face. He winked at me when our eyes met. I can’t tell you about my panic at that moment. There he winked at me next to my father, mother and grandparents. I was relieved and at the same time confused about what to do. I felt like I was going to die of excitement all night long. After the coffee service, they asked permission from my grandfather for make me a part of their family.
As far as I learned from our later conversations, before the ceremony, my husband took her mother aside and said, “If I like the girl, I will ask her for a glass of water, then you can ask the girl’s familly for engagement.” Of course, I learned this years later. That’s when I understood the reason for my mother in law’s uneasiness.
After getting engaged, Mehmet went to the army. At that time, the military service was longer. Actually, we really started to have conversations with our letters. When he returned, we were like two strangers who knew each other very well. This made our married life even more enjoyable. Living with him was always like sailing to new horizons. After a while, we became everything to each other. We grew up together, we developed together. He has been with me all my life. He supported me in everyway. With each passing year, my love for him grew more and more. We raised five beautiful children together. Five children, each one more special and more beautiful than the other…
Semahat Kömür with her grandchield
Our house has always been chirpy and colorful. Thanks to him, I have wonderful memories. I was a very lucky person who got married to the person I fell in love with. We spent 47 years filled with love and affection. Even for once, our love for each other and our passion never waned. Years have passed, and we have been fortunate enough to love our grandchildren together. Our house is colored again with our grandchildren. Now we are enjoying old age together. We travel as much as we can from the pandemic bans, we take vacations together. I am grateful to have him in every moment of my life. If I was born again, I would choose my husband to marry again.
Translated from interview to article by Esra Güzellergüzeli