EARLY DAYS, MOSTLY AT COLLEGE
I know that remembering my birth is considered unlikely, and perhaps it is not a true memory, just one my mind has created from hearing about it many times. Anyway, when I was very small, my Mother kept me wrapped in a blanket because it was winter, and we didn't have central heating. In the first few months, mother kept me in one of two rooms, the master bedroom out of which I could see a large stone building built of white and block stones, and a sitting room where I nursed. Sometimes she would let my brother, Henry, watch, and I could feel his jealousy. He would act up trying to get Mother's attention. The days went by fast since I slept a lot.
Then the days got warmer and I was crawling on a blanket Mother had spread under an olive tree in the front yard on a small patch of grass. Eyah, our maid, often gave me my bath, and as I got older and didn't nurse as often, took care of me more and Mother was away at the big stone building more and more. From Eyah I learned Turkish before I learned English. Of course it was the backward dialect that Eyah spoke. Ever afterwards, the cultured Turkish folk would ask where I had learned to speak Turkish.
When I started to walk by myself and say things nobody seemed to understand, a big change happened all of a sudden. A large machine the big people called a truck showed up at the gate and everything we had was piled up. When enough things were put in the truck to fill it, Henry got into it with a lot of men and it made a big noise and went away for a while. Then it came back and took more things, but this time Henry played with his rocks instead of going on the truck. When the truck had taken everything away, mother picked me up and took me with her and got into the front of the truck. Dad and Henry got in the back, With a loud noise, the truck jerked and started to move. Dirt and dust got in my eyes and I started to cry.
I opened my eyes when the truck stopped and we were in a very strange place I hadn't seen before. We were backed up to the front of a house made of white stone, with a large stone porch. The roof of the porch was falling down. There was no soft lawn to play on, just hard packed dirt and a few neglected flower beds down the hill. There was another house several hundred feet away, but it didn't look lived in.
I heard Henry asking why we couldn't live at home and Dad answered saying Dr. Dewey and his family were coming in a few days, and it was important for the doctor to be near the hospital, which I now knew was the large building of black and white stone that I used to see out of our bedroom. When Henry began to whine, Dad tried to cheer him up by saying that the Deweys had lots of children that we could play with.
I didn't think it was so bad. I had all my dolls, my white crib was in the corner of Mon and Dad's bedroom, and Eyah, our maid, still came every day to take care of me. The new house was a very exciting place and I soon forgot the one where I had been born. Our new house was bigger: the stairs were not as steep and I soon was allowed to climb them. Dad had a pipe put across the upstairs hall and some workman put our swings there to use on a rainy day. As I got a little older, I got to have a regular bed in the very large room where Henry and Mary Frances had their beds, each of us got a corner. The floor was very smooth wood and we used to slide around on it on our chairs when no one was watching.
We were allowed nearly a free run outside because our house was in the middle of a walled compound that was more than a mile around so that we could not get lost easily. There was only one large gate and a man who lived with his family in a house above the gate wouldn't let us go out by ourselves. Sometimes we visited in the gatehouse and the gatekeeper's wife gave us tasty things to eat like raw meatballs. The gate was on the ground level and the house was round and built above it. There were walnut trees near the gate and we picked them up off the ground and cracked them to eat.
One day a big box came on a truck that was too big to go into our house. The workman took out a thing mother called a piano and put it in one of the rooms downstairs. Mother would make nice sounds with her fingers and sing at the same time. She showed me how to make the sounds but they weren't nice like hers. For months afterwards, the box was left outside and we got to play house in it. I was very sad when they took it away.
Lynda Dewey was the same age as Henry and when they were older, one of the Dewey servants would bring her over on a large scooter, and Henry and Lynda would play school. Mother would play with them and tell me to run outside and play. I was very sad and lonely that I wasn't allowed to play school, so I began to imagine I had someone to play with. I gave him a name, Johnny. Johnny became very real and after a while I could see him out of the corner of my eyes. After a few months, Johnny stopped being shy and we did everything together and talked to each other, except I learned not to talk to Johnny when other people were there because they couldn't see him or hear him. Johnny was MY special friend. One thing was strange, Johnny didn't sleep with us. When I got ready to go to sleep, he would say goodnight and he would be gone until I got up in the morning.
We didn't have electricity, just a few gasoline lanterns, so we often went to bed early and Mon and Dad spend their evening downstairs with the lantern. In the summer, our beds were moved out onto our sleeping porch which had room for about 7 beds. Each bed had a mosquito net because they were bad in summer and lots of people got malaria. The porch had no roof so we could watch the stars before falling asleep. Dad knew the names of a lot of the stars and used to say that one of the stars in the big dipper was the Isely star. I didn't understand what having a family star was since everyone else could see it too. We didn't have to worry about our beds getting wet in the rain because I don't remember it ever raining in the summer. The air was so clear and clean that we could see shooting stars almost every night. We played a game to see who could count the most number of shooting starts before we fell asleep.
In the winter, we would gather around the wood stove in our bedroom and mother would read us stories from the My Bookhouse set of books. I wanted stories from the first books of the set. Mary Frances wanted stories from the last ones. So Henry usually got what he wanted since they were in-between. It would rain some in the winter and since there was no attic floor above our bedroom the rain would make a roar from hitting the tin roof of our house. Sometimes during the day when it was raining we would go up into the attic where the roar was even louder.
The rain was important, since in the beginning we got all our water for the whole year from the rain that was stored in a large cistern carved into the limestone alongside our house. It had to be cleaned out every year, and I remember one time we children were lowered some twenty feet in baskets on the ends of ropes to see what the cistern was like. It was scary and seemed dark because we only had one lantern lowered with us. Dad said if you turned out the lantern and looked up through the opening of the cistern during the daytime and looked in the right place, you could see stars. I don't remember seeing any.
A lot of things happened when I was three. The compound we stayed in was an old college that had been closed during World War One and didn't open again because it had been damaged in the war and there wasn't money to pay for teachers. But the grounds were big enough to turn it into an agricultural school. The Pence family came from California to run the school and I was so happy because they had three boys around my age. They moved into the house next to ours that had been empty since we had moved. Jimmy was close to my age, and I thought he was fun to play with. About this time some workmen had built a tree house in our back yard in an almond tree, and we had a lot of fun in it.
About the time of my third birthday, my sister and I got a very high fever. We also had spots on our arms. Mother was very worried and then she and Dad got sick too. Only Henry wasn't affected. The doctor came and took our temperatures and looked at our tongues and spots and said that we had scarlet fever. As we were getting better Henry got sicker than any of us. When I was playing with him on one of our beds, I found a big red swelling on the side of his neck which made him cry and Mother came running. They took Henry into Mom and Dad's bedroom and when I saw him the next morning he had a big bandage around his neck. Mother said the doctor had to cut his neck to let a lot of poisons come out.
I think it was the next summer that we went camping up into the hills west of where we lived where there are a lot of red cliffs. Trucks took us part of the way and then we had to get on donkeys and horses to go on. Henry, Lynda Dewey, and I were put in empty grape boxes that were tied onto both sides of a large donkey, It was very rough and bumpy, so we were very glad to get off at the campsite. From the top of the cliffs we could see all the way back to Gaziantep.
Another summer we got to go with Dad to Istanbul, about four hundred miles away, for a month's long meeting. Where we stayed was a girl's school, but they were home for the summer. We hadn't seen electricity before. Henry found an old bulb and was beating it on a cucumber and it broke. The school was beside a sea and we were beginning to learn to swim. Henry thought he was so smart he could be like the lifeguard and he jumped off the pier and nearly drowned.
We did have a lot of fun when we went on the ferryboats that went on the Bosphorus which separates European from Asiatic Turkey. They played music on their loudspeakers which could be heard far away.
As I got older, Mother let me play more with the older kids. I remember they used to tease Henry that he was a crybaby. When there were enough kids together we always played King's Base. When it snowed, we got our sleds out and coasted down the hill. Sometimes we made snowmen or had snowball fights. When the snow was deep enough we would tramp out a round pattern and play Fox and Geese.
The Pences had brought a windmill with them when they came from America, and it was put up on the highest hill at the college next to the ruined building. When our parents were busy, we would sneak away and climb up to the top and look down on the roof of the three-story building. One time we were exploring in the ruined building and found a nest of wild cats. Edward and Henry both captured kittens and took them home even through they got scratched a lot. When our cat got big, it had kittens every year and we had to drown them.
The ruined building had a clock tower with a clock that still worked and Henry and Dad used to climb up the tower to wind the clock and also to set the hands. I don't think I was ever allowed in the tower. There was a room on the third floor near the tower where we played sometimes. It was a little scary to get to because some of the stairs to the third floor were gone.
There were a lot of fruit trees on the college grounds and it was Henry's job many times to pick some fruit each morning for breakfast. I did get to go out with him in the Fall to eat grapes off the vines. The yellow ones were the best. Also in the Fall our Turkish servants would bring in great piles of grapes and put them in a big vat and we would stomp on them to make grape juice. This was then boiled down and poured out on sheets to get hard so we would have it to eat in the winter.
Then a very sad time came. Mother said it was because there wasn't enough money from America, but the Pences had to go back to America and the agricultural school was closed. I missed Jimmy Pence very much and went back to playing with Johnny again. The whole college property had to be sold and we had to move again. Before we moved, the large college building was taken down one stone at a time and sold for use in new buildings. They built a gigantic temporary slide so that the stones could be slid down from the top floors without breaking.