May 26, 2009
By Elif Orhan BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
Elif Orhan BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

My grandmother’s name is Suheyla. Suheyla means far away star and in many ways that’s what my grandmother has always been to me. She has always been there to guide me in the right direction, a small light in a too dark sky. Now I know that I never took enough time to see how my grandmother sparkles, to see the life in her eyes, or the mystery behind her all-knowing smiles. They say that from the remains of every dead star a new star is born, I like to believe that that new star is me and in order to continue my own story I need to know the story of the star that I came from. I cannot take credit for the following story. It is not my story to tell, but if I don’t tell it who will? And who will listen?

I left my mother when I was 12 years old. I went to Bursa, a slightly larger town than that in which my mother and our family lived. There was no high school in the small town we lived in. In Bursa I stayed with my aunt, a widow that had lost the only child she had ever had. This high school I attended was less of a high school and more of a training place for future housewives. Here I learned mathematics and cooking back to back, I learned how to sew and mend clothes. I ultimately learned how to do everything and anything my husband would ask of me. I was an average student; I never did more than what was asked of me. But then again, none of us did. When you have nothing to work for why would you work? We all knew that this was it for us, that after graduation all we could do is wait, wait to be married. They told us time and time again that women can’t study, women can’t have jobs, that a women’s place is at home taking care of her family. I fought that ideology, believe me I fought it hard. I thought that I was worth more than that, but year after year they striped us of any self-righteousness we had left. I graduated when I was 17 and by this time I had become my aunts every thought and worry. I couldn’t leave her behind, so I stayed and didn’t return to my mother’s side. I stayed, taking care of my aunt, until I was 22 years old. I stayed just waiting to be married.

I take a good look at my grandma as she walks through her memories, her mind slowly fitting together the jigsaw puzzle of years past. I can’t even begin to comprehend what she has been through. I had never thought of my grandma as a strong woman, but now I know her life and her strength. My grandmother’s maiden name was Alniak, this means pure and innocent. My grandma was once a pure and innocent star. After her marriage she took her husband’s last name, Acar, meaning strong. My grandmother was forced to leave behind her innocence and gain strength. She lost her sparkle and became the consistent strong star that others could rely on.

I only saw my husband twice before we got married. He came to my aunt’s house to see my aunt and I. He must have liked what he saw because he then asked my aunt if he could marry me. My aunt said she would need time to think it over and he left. Because I was the closest thing to a child my aunt had ever had she thought long and hard about giving me away. He came back 15 days later and she gave her consent. My husband and I got married in the backyard of my aunt’s house. I was 22 and my husband was 22 years older than me.

I quickly interrupt my grandmother’s story, “but Grandma, what about love?” She gives me a pained look and says to me, “love? What is love? We never knew love, we only knew respect.” I sit and think about this for a minute. Her warm smile returns and she says to me, “Whether from the sky or earth I will make sure you have everything I did not.” I give her a trusting nod because I know she is telling me the truth.

I was lucky in my marriage; my husband did not treat me bad. I was still so naïve, so he raised me like his child, helped me mature and grow; it did not take long. Soon after I got married I stopped turning to the sun for comfort. I began looking to the moon. I realized that my life would never be as bright and shining as the sun, but if it could be as bright as the moon then that would enough for me. The moon lit up my dark world and filled me with life. When I cried the moon would laugh at me, it would ask me, “How can you be so sad? You are supposed to be my strong star, Suheyla Acar.” And I would wipe my tears and thank my beloved moon once again. Soon after the wedding I got pregnant, a son. Five months later I lost this son. I felt as if I was carrying heavy flour bags filled with my worries, in each arm. I had lost a part of me and I sunk so low that I didn’t think I could get back up to the surface again. I was this way for three months. I sat by myself letting the pain sweep in waves through my body. Then, at my lowest low I looked to the moon and he gave me a second chance. Nine months later I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. I named her Ayfer, moonlight. I wished more than anything that her spirit would be as beautiful and bright as the moonlight that comforted me. From the first time I held my daughter in my arms I made a promise to myself. I promised that I would give her everything that I didn’t have so she could shine as pure as the moonlight in her name. I would open every door for her and help her seize every opportunity. I would not let her mind be narrowed by society like mine. I wanted her to help people, to have an ability to help people, something that I was never able to have. I knew my daughter would have my pride, but I would not let her pride to be pushed and stepped on like mine. I pushed and pushed my daughter to keep going forward, and now I watch her push her daughter.

My grandmother stopped talking and put a hand to her eyes. A slow stream of tears flowed down the landscape of her worn face. I slowly realized that these tears were not those of unhappiness both those of an accomplishment. I believe that at this moment my grandmother looked back on the promise that she made to herself a long time ago, and realized how far she has helped her daughter, my mother come. I realized then that my mother is where she is today because of my grandmother and that I have the freedom to become whomever I choose because of her. I no longer look at my grandmother as a far away star, I see her for what she really is and always has been, a pure and innocent star. My grandmother has shed a new light on my mind; she has proved to me that innocence once lost can always be regained with perseverance and strength.

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