Welcome to Christmas Eve, or as the Karagöz puppet troupe likes to refer to it as of late, “Kristmas Eve.” These little puppets, they have taken on the Kardashian family’s obsession with the letter K, and have started to use the letter wherever a letter starting with C or Ch is pronounced “K.” Ever since their wild romp in Provincetown, they have been acting kind of out there – “empowered!” says Safiye Rakkase. By the way, we still have to tell you about the puppets’ attendance at the Sultan of Nutcracker’s annual ball (but will have to wait until after Christmas – oops – Kristmas). OK, that’s it puppets, I am not going to roll with the K action, you can spell stuff that way if you want, but not me.
In any case, while we have been spinning our proverbial yarn about the 12 days before Christmas, introducing you to all of the major players in the shadow puppet troupe, we have not been filling you in on some of their pre-Christmas activities. Now, for years, the puppets have helped M. and I resolve our collective approach (no, Esma, I will not use a K for spelling collective) to handling Chrismas (not a K, Tiryaki, you impish addict!). As with many in the world, the holidays (while bestowing the promise of family unity and “good time together”) bring just a slight bit of dread.
Will so-and-so insult so-and-so unknowingly, will there be a fight between the Christians and the atheist, will family tradition be too much to bear for some who struggle from difficult family bayram images set long ago that are hard to leave behind…will the stress make us argue…will one of us storm off and leave the premises at the stress of it all – or threaten never to “do” Christmas again… the puppets have lived through all of this with us each year, each one supporting me in her or his own way in understanding how Christmas in my country and in my family may just be another Tuesday in M’s world…a world of his own with very different traditions.
This year, however, the puppets got it in their head that it would be a good idea to have M. and I work on a project together. And one day, while I was reading a book to my friend’s daughter, Esma had a brainwave. Esma, ever the nature lover, was sitting on my shoulder, reading along with me the poetry in the tiny children’s book Flower Fairies of the Wayside. This is a classic children’s book series from England, illustrated by the famous Cicely Mary Barker. As Esma was taking a closer look at the Mulberry Flower fairy (who she had seen before, in Turkey), she fell off of my shoulder and onto the book with a bang before rubbing her head free of swirling stars to pronounce – “what this little girl needs is a fairy castle for Christmas! Other bloggers make things for children – you know – like the life-sized chess set that one of the Archer’s of Okçular helped to make for the schoolchildren there! You can do your part for one little girl in your life, then move on to greater efforts in the community”
Hmmm, I thought to myself, that could be pretty well perfect for a seven year old girl enamored of pink, glitter and all things fairy. It’s been a challenging year for the little girl in question, so perhaps something really special (and pink, and glittery and magical) might do just the trick. And the planning commenced. Esma enlisted Hacivad Bey in the architectural effort, drafting plan after plan and whispering them into M’s ear at night so he thought it was his own idea. Esma took a more direct approach with me when it came to interior design – and even sought out Safiye Rakkase’s advice on decorations. Now, that’s a first in community building.
One day, I brought home a set of fairy dolls from the crafts store, to give to our friend’s daughter to go along with the fairy castle. Although they looked plasticated to me, unable to breathe or generally sprite around at all, as soon as they entered the home, I found that the shadow puppet troupe was up in arms – with a great deal of running around, gathering implements (e.g. chopsticks, matchboxes, coasters, and the like, you know, things that tiny shadow puppets could move with relative ease).
“What on earth is going on?” I queried the puppets – you all look like you are part of the Red Cross and Red Crescent disaster relief service!”
“Well indeed, m’lady,” Hacivad Bey exclaimed as he ran by at breakneck speed “we are staging a rescue – there is a delegation from another puppet/doll ethnicity, and they are suffocating in plastic, we have to get them out BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE! Got to run – must-save-puppets!”
Before I knew it, the puppets had constructed an ersatz ladder up over the side of the craft store bag, and were dragging a paring knife, the smallest, up and over into the bag. By the time I walked over to see what was what,I realized that they were trying to “free” the plastic fairy dolls that I had purchased – all of which were jumbled together in a skinny plastic tube. Much to my shock and surprise, all of those fairies were beating on the plastic walls, fogging up the plastic glass with their fairy breath and making a tinkling-winkling fuss while using their magic wands to try to break down the plastic that was incarcerating them. Feeling horrible at their plight, and my part in it, I reached in and quickly pried the top off of the container – before the shadow puppets could begin to think about using that knife. Post-haste, the fairies flew out of the container and hovered around me.
“A benevolent human, I see,” a matronly fairy pronounced, “I see you shadow puppets are in good hands here. I have heard of you – the Sultan of Nutcrackers sent word of your presence my way – and I have been waiting to meet you all and sprinkle you with a bit of magic fairy dust to help you through the challenging moments of a family Christmas with your human. Oh – and I forgot to introduce myself, I am the Princess of the Tree Fairies, a delegation of the flower fairy queendom, we are matriarchal, you see.” Hacivad Bey and the Princess of the Tree Fairies commenced diplomatic discussions, and sent a tiny fairy emissary, the Linden Tree flower fairy, over to explain to me a bit about the Queendom of Flower Fairies:
“Well, you see, madame, flower fairies are tiny creatures (the biggest is only 20cm tall) that live in the tree tops, marshes, forest floor, wayside and gardens. Wherever and whenever a seed sprouts, a Flower Fairy baby is born. Each Flower Fairy lives and sleeps in their chosen flower, plant or tree, and as this grows the fairy grows too. Each and every Flower Fairy is in charge of looking after their flower or plant; keeping it strong and healthy by making sure it has plenty of sunshine and water to drink, sweeping away dead leaves, and polishing flowers and stems. Flower Fairies are nature sprites. Each Fairy looks and behaves like an extra dimension of the plant it lives within and cares for. The evocative ‘song’ each Flower Fairy sings, helps convey the ‘spirit’ of her flower.” Enraptured, Esma took the Linden Tree flower fairy by hand and took him on a tour of the house. And so came the tree flower fairies, distant relatives of the Karagoz shadow puppets, for a Christmas visit.
In the few spare moments that M. and I have together in any given week, we were dragged by the visiting flower fairy delegation – along with representatives of the shadow puppet troupe – to work in the studio to create a fairy castle for our 7 year-old fairy fanatic. Celebi, the modernist, tells me it might be better referred to as a fairy townhouse, as it has three levels. We ended up with a fairy castle townhouse that has three different types of imaginary ecosystems, a maritime lair, a forest floor wing and woodsy realm complete with moss, antique tree trunk and glittering sparkly giant flowers that rival the movie Avatar in fancifulness.
While M. and I are not the best collaborators when it comes to creative projects, we learned a lot, had some good moments together and came up with a totally over-the-top fairy castle townhouse that I hope our 7 year-old friend will adore. Enjoy the photos of the fruits of our labor, and thank you, little puppet troupe and visiting flower fairy delegation, for getting us going on this! Now, let’s hope that the little girl likes it!
- The Twelve Days of Christmas: Karagöz puppet-style (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Strike a pose: Puppets gone fashionista in the middle of the night! (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Moving from Madonna to Meditation and Myths (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- The Sultan of Nutcrackers issues an invitation to the puppets(slowly-by-slowly.com)
- On the 1st day of Christmas: Meet Esma, the hippie Karagöz puppet (slowly-by-slowly.com)