A little over a month ago, my mom’s very good friend and her husband went on a trip to Turkey. They are a very well traveled couple and even went with a travel group of people on this trip. They have been to Europe several times and both have very social and aware personalities. This all goes to show that you can never be too prepared.
I say over and over again to friends and relatives and readers to research your trip. For example, I was a little nervous going to Cairo by myself in 2011, so I specifically researched female traveler safety tips. I read blogs, travel sites, and national travel guides. Somewhere I read to cover my head no matter what and to wear headphones not plugged into anything. If I had headphones in and I was being harassed, the predator was more likely to dismiss me ignoring them on the account that I could not hear them. So why not plug them in? Well, because it would inhibit my awareness of my surroundings. Little advice like this is crucial. So I decided to write to my readers about my mom’s dear friend.
The second or third week of this November, they were on their last day in Turkey and heading home. They stopped at the market to look for some more souvenirs to bring home. Her husband found a decorative knife and bought it for himself to bring home. They packed up their bags and headed to the airport. He did not put the knife in the carry on but in his checked bag to be safe. While at the gate, they called him over and asked if he had papers for the knife in his luggage. He replied that he did not and they asked him to wait. He knew it might take awhile so he told his wife and friends to go on ahead and he would take the next flight.
When my mom’s friend got home to America, she came to find out that her husband was arrested at the airport after she left and was put into prison. It is against a Turkey Law to remove antiquities from the country, and the knife was enough of an antique to cause problems. They had no idea. They thought it was just your average souvenir. He stayed in prison for about 2-3 weeks, after they had countless Turkish and American lawyers, the embassy, the consulate, and several politicians involved. He had to stay in Turkey for a hearing and put under house arrest. Thankfully he is now home for the holidays with his family, but it is quite scary what happened to him.
My mother married this extremely funny and sweet man named Max when I just turned 5 years old. They sadly divorced 2 years later, but were still quite in love. I was too young to know or see the sadness my mother felt when he would often visit or when we would visit him. For ten years, they would visit one another between San Francisco and Chicago. For ten years, he would call on every birthday and holiday. It was not until late in high school when I finally felt and saw the hurt too. I grew to be a bitter teenager about him. Max passed away a few years ago from being ill. Today, I am more aware of love and relationships and people, and after having to cope with Max’s death without closure, I feel like I would never replace those unique 12 years with him in my life.
We were visiting San Francisco again, but this time is was Christmas. Dad (Max) was not as prepared as I think Mom would have like him to have been. There was no tree. What was Christmas without a tree? My mother was one for tradition and improvisation. She is wonderful about refusing to be “without.” I am not sure where they came from, maybe Dad had them stored away, but she somehow got her hands on some Green Christmas Lights and some scotch tape. She then molded the strand of lights into the form of a Christmas tree on the mirror door of the closet. She stood back and looked at it…”There!” she exclaimed. She was pretty proud of herself. Tree accomplished. Dad looked at her and smiled and perhaps only I caught his glance of admiration. Perhaps he was embarrassed that he did not have a tree.
It is funny. I do not remember any of the gifts I received this Christmas. I don’t remember the exact year either. I remember what the apartment looked like and I remember that tree made of Christmas lights. In the morning the tape had started to peel off the mirror and I got up and rubbed it back on before my mom saw. There are plenty of different types of families out there. My Dad/Max was not there for very many. But, I remember them all. It was the only times I felt like my mom and my little family was attempting to become more full.
Today I mistakenly saw a sight that made me smile more than I have in a while. It wasn’t really what I thought it was. I mean I wasn’t having visions or anything, but for some reason my brain was in the right setting to incorrectly translate something I saw on my way to work. Today the skies are grey, but it is not too cold. It is a
temperature to wear a sweatshirt and jeans (maybe even a skirt with boots). I had sweat compiling at the seam of my hat by my fidora, because I was wearing too many layers in fact. No bright sunlight, but not uncomfortable. The wind was blowing just right for a December. I often have thoughts about England in the Chicago pre-winter conditions, but at this particular moment I was not consciously thinking about England.
I walked to the stoplight, but realized the light had just turned for the other direction, so I stopped. I checked my iphone for the time then looked down the street to see if there was a pause in the cars so I could skip across. That’s when my mind fooled me. I had a sudden jolt in my stomach. A pulse of butterflies filled me. It was a moment where I actually had to say to myself, “No Shannon, you are in Chicago.”
There, in the sky, was a steeple with a crown-like silhouette. It was
sight I had stared at everyday, 9 years ago, on my way to University. I had actually mistaken this Edgewater church for the Canterbury Cathedral. It must have been the right setting at the right time. I was on my way to work, like would have been on my way to school at this time of day years ago, the clouds were overcast, but it was warm and comfortable outside, so my mind triggered a thought that was completely fabricated. I think my jaw even dropped.
My stomach had jumped, but not in a way of shock or surprise. I had jumped in a surge of happiness and excitement. I stared at the Edgewater church for a while even after I realized the truth. I wanted it to be the Canterbury Cathedral so much. I have been having a rough time at home and in my everyday life lately, it was so wonderful to have this moment of pure happiness. Thoughts of Canterbury always make me smile. It was the only “real” time I was living overseas and made me feel special to called the sweet town Home.