Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yet another catastrophe averted

You start out in one place – today it is a dusty and random hidden room – and then you end up in some very other place far away, in another time – which today was Greece and Turkey in 1972.

Because a niece is moving into Tristram’s room this evening (he is newly married and living on the shores of Lake Michigan, but it is and will always be his room) I thought it might be a good idea to clean up the tiny, slanty adjacent closet-slash-study. Though Tristram is hardly the packrat that his mother is, it seems that he too has managed to accumulate a random assortment of stuff: baseball figurines, incense, gifts he never bothered to open, philosophy books, a homemade xylophone, a stuffed parrot, an inflatable globe, a political poster for Dotty “Stanky” Stankovich, a didgeridoo, about 20 baseball caps, 2 sleeping bags, out of date guidebooks and Cuban currency. These I left largely untouched. I did however remove the mustard yellow, black and white Greek rug that was under his computer table and home to more dead bees than seemed appropriate. I threw out the ratty decomposing rug pad, possibly made with Leigh fibers materials. I washed the rug in cold water. Now it is outside, draped over the tree stump.
I remember buying that rug in 1972 when we made a family trip to Greece and Turkey (2 parents, 5 offspring). I bought the rug on a Greek island and I was so pleased with myself, because I had never bought a rug before and I planned to bring it back to college with me. It’s a smallish woven rug and I would never buy it if I saw it now. Really its only place in my life is as a mnemonic.
Also in Greece we visited Knossos, home to the labyrinth that housed the misunderstood Minotaur. Sometime after that I developed a terrible case of vertigo and dizziness, and when we visited a doctor at an American military base in Turkey and he diagnosed labyrinthitis, I knew exactly where I had caught it. The doctor said the labyrinth referred to was in my ear, but I knew otherwise.
In Istanbul we went sightseeing with my mother while my father made business calls. Lots of cotton was still grown in Turkey back then, which meant there was lots of cotton waste. One night we were to have dinner with some old customers of his at a waterfront restaurant on the Bosporus. Mom and Dad got in a taxi with their friend, and the five of us were in another taxi. Within minutes we had lost sight of our parents and none of us had any idea where we were going, and none of us spoke Turkish, and in no time at all I was convinced that we were all five blonde & dimwitted Yankees being kidnapped and taken to a hidden cove where we would be loaded onto a rusty, leaky tanker and transported to Saudi Arabia and sold into white slavery. I remember wondering whether they would separate us by gender – leaving me with my much younger sister apart from my three younger brothers, and I debated whether we would be better off thus separated, or whether it would be better to stay together so I would have help defending my little sister, the virgin among us, the dimpled child, and obviously the prize - the white-slavery-poster-girl.
When hours (so it seemed) later we were delivered to the waterfront restaurant, pulling in mere seconds after my parents’ taxi, I tried to tell them that we had been at terrible risk & that their negligence had almost lost them all of their progeny in one fell swoop. They were unimpressed, and not remotely worried.

These days I am of a mind to clear out stuff and purge whatever is not being used; to give away those treasures from a flea market in Goleta in 1973 and recycle all the telephone bills dating back to the Spanish-American War. Then I find something that reminds me of somewhere else.
I don’t know if I will return the Greek rug – now clean and presumably bug-free - to the hidden room. But what else would I do with a not very lovely rug that conjures up the Bosporus in twilight?

1 comment:

Rebecca Rice said...

What an eloquent post with its evocations of childhood, Greece, rugs, Turkey, and the chimera of white slavery, which kept my mother's imagination in overdrive for most of my childhood!