Vera's three-years-old by now -- a very determined, strong-willed and mischievous three-year-old. I have now raised her by myself for two years, and I have loved the experience of raising her on my own and getting to know how she thinks and what's important to her.
She is happiest right now when she's role playing. Most of her role-playing games involve a mama dog/car/rabbit/bear who is taking her baby dog/car/rabbit/bear to daycare. Often a mysterious monster arrives at the daycare and waits outside just after the mama drops her baby off. The daycare teacher has to call the unicorns from Equestria,
the idyllic land of horses from the television show My Little Pony, to come and save the daycare from the monster. At this point, Vera grabs one of her unicorn figurines, turns on her most intense laser-beam stare, and utters the angry, determined word, "ZHOOM!", meaning the magical powers from the unicorn horn are being released. The monster -- sometimes, a pen, other times, a stuffed animal -- is pushed back, away from the daycare, so the mama and daddy dogs/cars/rabbits/bears can arrive to pick up their babies.
She still does not acknowledge that Mustafa is her father even though I have told her at least a handful of times that she does have a father, and that he is it.
"That man scares me," she often says after the three of us have spoken on Skype.
Or more simply, "That's not my father."
Earlier in the summer, I had planned on going to Turkey with Vera again, but at a certain point I told Mustafa we would not be able to go.
The way he dragged his heels about how to pay for the ticket bothered me. At one point he said the money would be in my account that Monday, but come Monday there was no money there. This year I vowed to myself I would not pay for the tickets before being reimbursed, not after last year, when for the longest time I had the cost of two tickets on my credit card statement, even though before leaving he had said clearly, "Don't worry about the costs. I'll pay for the flight, no problem." He did finally reimburse me for the cost of one ticket, but we had purchased two tickets and I still had that $900 charge on my account to deal with.
For as long as I have had Vera, my most recurrent dream has been to save enough for the down payment for a house, not a big house, but a house with hardwood floors and big windows and high ceilings. After more than a year, I still had only saved $900, a far cry from the $9,000 I would need to save for a house in Holly Lake Ranch.
Holly Lake Ranch is a gated community just about ten miles from my work at the college. Mostly, retirees live there because it is too far from any cities where a young person could find a decent job. From what I understand, the neighboring town of Hawkins employs quite a few young men to do either demolition or more highly skilled welding or engineering work, but not nearly as many as it once did.
My biggest fear was that the trip to Turkey this year would cut into the small amount of savings I had managed to collect over the last year. If I could just keep my belt tightened, by the end of the summer, I might have almost $4,000 in my savings account. I had taught summer classes and I had done contract committee work for the College that had been arduous and time-consuming and involved much planning and coordinating of labor in order to get the task done. Vera and I had commuted from the trailer on Mrs. Annie's farm, in neighboring Mineola, fifty miles every day, and I had taught forty students, only ten of whom had bought the textbook. So way too much of my time this summer had been spent at the Academic Affairs copy machine, photocopying the relevant pages before class.
I grew up less than a quarter of a mile from the Chattahoochee River. Luckily for us, the zoning commission viewed the area along the Chattahoochee River a flood zone and did not permit building on this land. On those three nearby acres, we spent our time exploring, practiced driving our green Vespa, built forts and bike jumps. After snowstorms, we made snowmen and carved out angels. Eventually, to our dismay, a family of four built a 5000 square foot house on the land, despite the zoning commissions earlier "flood zone" ruling.
I can recall that I was very afraid walking the mile and a half home in the early evening past the undeveloped flood zone. I was never afraid of natural disasters, or the animals who lived among us, but of people, like the flasher who periodically cruised our middle and high school campus with no pants on. I was afraid someone like the man without pants would cruise up, knock me off my bicycle and push me into his car, never to be heard from again.
The memories etched in my mind are of thunderstorms without power, long-legged wasps nested in deck corners, pet turtles who ran away, the dank smell of red clay cellars, the conquered fear of racing down the steepest driveway and the neighborhood dogs we knew by name - Gus, Boris, and the like - but never trusted.
In April of last year, Obama released his full birth certificate. I was seven months pregnant at the time, and I don't think that I had ever seen a full birth certificate before. Only then did I realize that all such documents have a space for the father's name, his birthplace, and his ethnicity. I knew already how Mustafa would like his ethnicity to be written on the birth certificate, but a part of me hoped that he would consider my daughter's future and allow me to write his ethnicity as Turkish.
Mustafa claimed that I did not really know him. If I did know him, I would know that he could not deny his ethnicity and that all the sacrifices of his life have been about this very issue -- being acknowledged as a Kurdish Turkish citizen with the same rights as ethnically Turkish citizens.
At the time, Obama's birth certificate made me think of my diluted feelings for Mustafa. Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, agreed to have Barack Obama Sr's child. She even married him when she was three months pregnant. Those were feats, but as to the birth certificate itself, I knew Stanley Ann Dunham had loved Barack Obama Sr. because she had named B.O. Sr. as the father on the birth certificate, and then had even named her son after him. President Obama would eventually use his name to his advantage but in the early 1960s, a distinctly African Muslim name must have been anything but an advantage.
2. love and respect for all people
3. tolerance toward other religions and ethnic groups
4. respect for working people
5. equality of men and women, who pray side by side.
Aleviism passes through the father's blood. My daughter is Alevi, according to Mustafa and according to all the Alevis whom I spoke to. Even if she lives far from Turkey and is not raised as an Alevi, she's still an Alevi child. I hope this means she will be able to play a musical instrument, preferably the saz or the baglama.