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Speaking 'Mother'

by Lyndie (6/23/2005)

Speaking 'Mother'

I wanted to share an experience with you all that happened to me in February of this year.

My family and I befriended a young Turkish man last summer and this year in November he will come to live with us for one year to go to college in England.


He speaks good English but his mother and brother do not speak English at all. In February I went to stay with him at his home to meet his family and for them to meet me.


I hit it off with his mother almost immediately, she is the same age as me and a modern liberal woman. She had a great sense of humour and although we couldn’t speak to each other, with my friend translating for us we learned a lot about each other. She was obviously concerned about how I would care for her son while he lived with us.


The morning after we arrived she dragged me out into the kitchen and taught me how to make the tea. Those of you who know about Turkey will know that this was an important task. My friend did not come into the kitchen to translate and we did not need to understand each others language for an understanding to be reached between us.


As the week went on I would go into the kitchen with her and help her cook, she showed me how to make many Turkish dishes. My friend would be amazed at how we could communicate when he wasn’t around to translate and I told him that we were simply speaking ’Mother’ - he didn’t understand at first, but then he came and watched one day when we were in the kitchen together and then he understood. Despite the fact that our lives and cultures were so different, there were certain kitchen tasks that are performed by women all over the world in more or less the same way and I didn’t need her to tell me in any language how to wash up the dishes!


One day my friend had to go out and I was left in the house alone with his mum. He was concerned about this, but I said not to worry. I felt very comfortable with her and even if we couldn’t speak to each other in the same language I knew I would feel happy with her. We had a surprising number of conversations. We ‘talked’ about her son, clothes, cooking, life in England and the college her son would go to. This done with the aid of anything we could think of to help us. Hand gestures, drawings, elaborate miming, and of course key words picked from the indispensable Turkish/English dictionary. But mainly we understood each other so well because we were both ‘Mothers’ - my friend calls me ‘Anne’ (Turkish for ‘mother’ in case any of you reading this don’t know that ?) and she very generously called him ‘our son’ for the duration of my stay there. On the first day we were left alone, when my friend returned and we told him all the things we had been ‘talking’ about he was amazed. We would just laugh and tell him we had been speaking ‘Mother’.


After that first day we often were alone together. We went shopping for presents and food. We went on buses and walked together and we sat in the pasthane and ate cake and drank tea together. Always we felt in touch with each other. Sometimes we would check with ‘our son’ when he came back that we had a proper understanding of the topics we had ‘discussed’ and always we had understood and knew each others meaning perfectly. On another occasion, we shared a joke in the pasthane about an elderly Turkish man who had kept winking at me. She thought this was outrageous but funny and when our friend returned from the barbers and found us laughing hysterically at the situation with the winking man, he simply couldn’t understand what we found so funny and how we could be sharing a joke between us when there were no common words between us.


On another day she decided to clear out her wardrobe and insisted on giving me lots of her clothes. We spent a cheerful hour or so in the bedroom trying on each others clothes, swapping make up, doing each others hair, shrieking with laughter all the time and never once having to actually have to say much because we did it all with hand gestures, miming and speaking ‘Mother’.

I suppose the point of this little story is that if you meet someone with whom you have a lot in common and you each find a warmth and empathy between you, a common language of words is not completely necessary. If you feel comfortable enough with the other person that you don’t always have to speak anyway all you need is that human contact that is bigger than language.

We did of course teach some words to each other, and once we had grasped these words we used them constantly and laughed a lot together.


My friend would often be shaking his head in amazement at us, but he was very happy that his two ‘Mothers’ quickly became such good friends. By the end of the visit we were calling each other ‘kardesim’ and we still do.


I will go and see them again next month. My friend will be working for some of the time and in those times his two ‘Mothers’ already have several excursions planned together. Each of us quite happy in the knowledge that we will be ok together.


In case my point hasn’t been made well enough I will explain quite simply that because we both love ‘our’ son, because I am a mother of four and she the mother of two, there were so many thoughts and feelings and experiences we had share in our motherhood, we had everything in common and instinctively understood each other on so many issues.


I joined this site so that could actually speak to her properly, but until the distant day comes when I can speak to her in Turkish, we will rely totally on speaking ‘Mother’.


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