A Journey of a Yellow Minibus: It’s My Life

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Contributed by: Firdevs Canbaz Yumusak, Project Management Intern

I have written numerous papers and short stories, but I think the ones that are most special to me are the stories I wrote about my mom and dad. In 2013, I wrote a story about my dad and it was published in Kızlar ve Babaları (which is Turkish for Daughters and Fathers). Then, in 2015, I  wrote and edited a part of the volume, Annemle Ben (My Mother and Me). In this book, female writers, scholars, and journalists living in various cities in Turkey wrote about their mothers and their relationships with them. It was a wonderful way for us to explore our mother-daughter connections.

When I was writing both of these texts, I reflected on my childhood and my family. I wrote about my parents, our family relationships, and some memories that only our family would know. While writing, I remembered my childhood, my youth, and many of those unique moments. When I reflected on my childhood, sometimes I cried and sometimes I laughed.

My father was s service bus driver during my childhood. First, he had a yellow minibus and then a larger bus. My father transported people between the cities. We traveled together a lot. Journeys always remind me of my father. He was the best driver on the road. Sometimes we went to our village. We lived in Ankara, and my hometown, Orta, was 2 hours away from Ankara. I had memorized the routes between Ankara and Orta. When I saw the cemetery at the entrance of the village and the poplar trees lined up along the way, I would gladly approach the window and take in the fresh and cold air.

In my family there are three siblings; I have one brother and one sister. My sister is more emotional than us. I think she was the only one who cried when she read the story I wrote for my father. As the first child of our family, I know she was raised differently. My mother and father married at a young age. My mother was 16, and my father was 17. My sister was born a year after their marriage. In those years, it was frowned upon for parents to show their children affection in front of others, even in front of the children’s grandparents. Over time those expectations have changed for the better, but my sister grew up in an environment where displaying nurturing behaviors outside the home wasn’t common.

Although mother-daughter and father-son conflicts are widespread and frequently seen in families, our family was rather peaceful. Of course, there were occasional slight arguments and disagreements, but we quietly overcame. I attribute this, particularly to my father's calm and fair standing. My father is like Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird. He is unique in his calmness, low talk, and reassuring way of speaking, and he has been the most excellent supporter of my mother throughout her life. My grandma (my mother’s mom) was an Alzheimer's patient. She stayed with us for many years. While taking care of my grandmother, my father always supported my weary mother. Somewhere I read a sentence, "the best book I have ever read is my father," and for me, my father is a book that I am still reading, and I can never finish.

It was harder for me to write about my mother because there are many ways that I am similar to my mother, whether or not I want to be. Some of my friends who I wanted to contribute to My Mother and Me said that they were not ready to write such a text because their mothers were alive, and if they saw what they wrote, they would probably be unhappy. Sometimes we aren’t able to talk to our mothers - it is not always easy. It was also not easy to write about them.

I thought about every moment I spent with my mom. She was always busy with chores, caring for the elders, and taking care of each one of us. She had no timeframe of her own. In my youthful days, when I questioned my existence, it was her peaceful support that rested my tired soul. When I had heartbreak or problems with my friends, she was there. During the difficult days after my birth, my most significant support was her.

I owe her my love of storytelling. I've heard so many stories from her. If my imagination is active, it's because of my mother. If I can make up tales and tell them to my own children every night before bedtime, maybe it’s because I'm my mother's daughter.

I would always ask her on our long journeys in the yellow minibus: "How long is the journey, Mother?" She would comfort me with her usual voice. I named my story in the book, "Mother, How Long?", because for me my mother gives that question meaning. She would say, “wait, honey, you're close, hang on, you're a powerful girl, I know you can do it.” In hard times, when I'm overwhelmed, I talk to my mom inside myself. I ask her, "how long left, mother, when will it end?" And I’ve grown up now. I have two kids. They also ask sometimes "how long left?". I don't know if my answer can satisfy them.

I know how important childhood is. It gives me energy and power to look at my childhood, which is now far away. Because my childhood is like a treasure that keeps me alive in my most difficult times, when I feel unhappy, I dive into that treasure and remember my happy moments. I am grateful to both my mother and father for giving me those unique years and for allowing us to grow happily and peacefully.

I am comfortable to have written these two stories, and I am happy to have this “conversation” with them. I was able to tell them how much I loved them. Because yes, sometimes we are unable to establish closeness with our closest relatives. But it can be helpful to think about your relationship, write it down, and talk with them about it. Writing is an excellent way to see your connections to others. It is essential especially in youth, a critical part of our life. Our relationships and habits are formed in these years.

Sometimes, we don’t tell the essential truth to our relatives, our friends, our siblings, and our parents. Because it is not easy every time. But in both of these texts I found an opportunity to say something about each relationship with my parent. They knew what made me happy and what disappointed me. In every family, there is a unique relationship between you and your parents, you and your single mom, you and your grandma, or you and a special person who was with you when you were growing up.

We should share our feelings, expectations, and our dreams with our family. We should talk more and open ourselves to them. We should say how much we love them. Or we should say when we are experiencing issues, because they’re our family. I would encourage you to write a letter to them saying what or how you feel. Sometimes it’s easier when writing something.

Perhaps you will turn your writings into a story, and maybe you will awaken the writer asleep inside you, who knows?

In his book How to Write Your Story, Ralph Fletcher says people assume that in order to write your story “you have to be a famous celebrity… you must have an amazing life… you can’t write your life story until you’re old and gray… nobody will read it, so what’s the point?” But that’s not the case.

We can write without paying attention to what other people might thing. You don't have to be an excellent writer to tell your story, and it could be that you're not aware of your talent.

I'm working on a long story right now. It is about the memories I love to share, like the unique summers I spent with my cousins, the family gatherings in my village, the celebrations, my childhood friends, my school memories, and my years with my husband and children.

It can be powerful to tell our story. I love telling my story, and I can best describe my life because it's my life.

Brittany Yelverton