Surviving and thriving: Christmas 2011 with the Karagöz puppet troupe

A Greek image of Saint Nicholas as Karagoz – or vice versa from this link – by David John Berlin Santa Kariagozi

magazine cover

“The Athenian”
December 1985

ink & gouache

© David John 1984

When we last left you, dear reader, we were barely squeaking by through the tension-filled days before Christmas.  Karagöz was up to no good, stomping around being grumpy and surly.  I was channeling Zenne, the little puppet who is as nervous and anxious as a shivery bowl of crabapple jelly.

In the end, we “sucked it up” and it was a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas day, more or less.  Mostly more.   Here is a bit about how all of the various members of the Karagöz puppet troupe addressed their Christmas experience.

Let us begin with Tiryaki, the opium addict.  Not surprisingly, he ambled his way, in a wobbling fashion, into my parents’ home, and after downing a delicious fresh eggnog with rum and shaved nutmeg (supplied by Mercan, the Arabian spice trader you met last week), found a wonderful spot near the fireplace to smoke his opium and nod out for the rest of the ride.

Tsk-tsking as she watched Tiryaki inebriate himself and head for the (proverbial) hills, Kenne, the lady in search of maintained honor was going at her manners lecture at full tilt.  Elbows off the table, mouth closed when chewing, underpants not showing when shirt becomes untucked while making a fire.  During a recent visit to my parents, it wasn’t me who had a heart attack, but it sure felt like it, it was Kenne.  Her heart attack was about M.’s typically brusque, to put it kindly, wording in response to my mother’s suggestion that he have a beer.   His response was “oh – anything but that Sam Adams beer that I hate.”  Of course, this was all that was in the house, and I felt the smarting red of a blushing bout.  As things were not always easy with M. and my family, little things like this set me off. In a show of graceful good spirits, my mother had gone out and purchased three different types of beer – and when she mentioned this, Kenne jumped into my body, moving in contorted facial expressions and arm movements to suggest to M. that he go and get a beer – for good will if nothing else.  To no avail.  Kenne was upset that he did not get a beer, but really, it is not the end of the world.  Sometimes it takes me – oops – I mean Kenne – a little bit of time to chill the h out a bit.  This time, it took my parents to set her straight, telling me to let things go a little bit more and to let the past go.  If only, I thought, if only M. could let the past go – his favorite book is Recherche du temps perdu….so a losing battle.

Easier said than done, Zenne, well, that nervous little lady, she whittled her nails down to the quick over the 1.5 days at home, worrying that M. might insult the family, or that they might trigger him somehow.  She couldn’t enjoy herself much at all, and took regular naps after exhausting herself with anxiety.  This lady, I mean really, she needs to GET A LIFE.

Meanwhile, Safiye Rakkase ignored all of this.  She made her home on top of the stereo, practicing her dance moves to the rhythm of the 5-CD repeating machine by the twinkly Christmas tree.  She donned her bellydancing gear and danced the night, and day, and night away…

Bebe Ruhi, who loves to ask incessant questions, took up with my father, who has a tradition from our childhood which involves asking questions about wrapped presents until he guesses the exact present – a true feat – much to the chagrin of my mother.  It can get old, but he never tires of it, and Bebe Ruhi was glad to make his acquaintance.

Yehuda Rebbe and Hacivad Bey, well, they climbed up to the very top of the Christmas tree, by the star there, and recited religious and spiritual poems for 1.5 days straight, without stopping, in some sort of marathon.  When I asked them why they were doing this, they told me that this was a marathon for world peace (to which Karagöz said “you mean WHIRLED PEAS?” but I ignored him) – and looking at me with a knowing glow, Hacivad Bey said “think globally, act locally, m’lady, aim for world peace in your head, and with your husband.”

Esma the little hippie puppet was stationed, in lotus position, just a few branches below the sage elders, meditating.  When she meditates for long periods of time, tiny fragrant jasmine and rose petals begin to flow out of her ears and across the room – they melt into small breezes as they wend their way towards anyone who is about.  She is a magical little puppet.  I felt those breezes a couple of times.

Karagöz was nowhere to be seen for most of the time.  I think he was totally exhausted, and that takes a lot.  He was mostly snoring and drooling in his sleep, half in a potted plant, half hanging out.  Our dog sniffed at him a bunch of times, although I don’t think he can see him.

But most of all, there was Perhihan Hanım, my fairy godmother, who really knows how to work some good magic.  She brings kekikli breezes from Bozcaada to calm us down in our most difficult moments…and she did not disappoint on Christmas.  We kept noticing that enticing sunshine-warmed smell of thyme around us as we made the fire with my Dad, held his hand when he was too fatigued to open presents or join in much, sip some tea with my mother, hear all about my sister’s church service visit…and best of all…when we witnessed our young friend enjoying the fairy castle we had made by hand and installed for her – complete with a glittery pink tulle bower around it.  A child’s joy at an unexpected bit of magic, that was the most calming and unifying present of all.  Thank you, Perihan Hanım for getting us to see the best in each other and others even in our most difficult times as a couple.  We think that our friend A. is in cahoots with Perihan Hanım, as she and he repeated the same words to us – wishing us a gentle bayram, and to hold a candle for one another.  A lasting image for a young (at heart) couple still in the throes of working out their relationship vis-a-vis Christmas culture…

This entry was posted in A Karagöz puppet battle, Cross-cultural learning moments, On writing about my life with the Karagöz puppets, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Surviving and thriving: Christmas 2011 with the Karagöz puppet troupe

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  3. Pingback: The Karagoz puppets tell me we have a name – we are a “glo-lo” couple | Slowly-by-Slowly

  4. Pingback: The Karagoz puppets tell me we have a name – we are a “glo-lo” couple | Slowly-by-Slowly

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