The house had been a flurry of activity that day – with baking, cleaning and general “fluffing” preparations afoot since morning. You would be surprised at how well a tiny troupe of dancing lady puppets from the Ottoman era can clean a modern-day kitchen, for example. And although all of the puppets (and their human, and her dog) were somewhat exhausted from the effort, they made their merry way down Commercial Street.
As we walked along the wooden pier towards the boat mooring, my heart sank a bit. There were three ambulances with flashing lights waiting at just the spot M. arrives each Friday night. Keying into my more paranoid side, the little chorus of dancing ladies began to whisper and worry, with a bit of hand-wringing thrown in for good measure. “What if,” one of them posited, “something happened to our dearly beloved M? He does have that basilary artery condition, you recall.” Heart pounding, I calculated the odds.
Sticking my hand quickly into my pocket to see if I could get a signal to text M. I realized this was a possibility…but before long I realized it was not the case, and thank goodness. I realized this as I started to hear wailing – the wailing of a truly distraught woman. I soon saw her, deep circles of soot-colored worry were growing around her eyes by the second, her hands placed to her mouth as if to staunch the flow of anguish.
The puppets did not know what to do with themselves – they were nowhere near a Çaydanlık to offer the lady a soothing glass of tea – and even Kenne, the Queen of Manners, was not totally sure what to do. The woman was standing by her lonesome, Kenne thought, but would it be appropriate to go up and stand with her to try to comfort her?
Those watching women in the photos facing us were eternal, lovely, seasoned and worried yet calm – in a calm before the potential storm kind of way…and I could almost imagine their invisible tentacles reaching out across from their wharf to ours to comfort and soothe the woman crying ahead of me. I soon saw that this woman’s loved one was being wheeled off of a large fishing vessel named the Sao Jacinto, restricted by the strictures of a flat board and head brace it was still easy to see that the man was in major pain. Standing silently and trying not to stare, the onlookers – including my puppets – began to pray, each in their own way. A pandemic of goosebumps made its way down the pier.
Putting a question of the wailing aside for a moment, I concentrated on those waiting women in a way I hadn’t since learning about them. Here they were, faced with their modern-day counterpart – a young woman facing a potentially earth-shattering event in the life of her family either through death or disability…Focus on those women’s faces, each wrinkle and sag, well, it was easier than listening to the anguished moans she was trying to suppress at the sight of her loved one’s gashed head being secured on a flat board before being airlifted to Boston for surgery. As the ambulance door clicked-hard-closed, the crying was muffled full stop.
Turning to look to the water for M.’s boat, the fishing vessel pulled away through the sunset-illuminated fog, and past those women watchers. I thought I saw them throw silvery skeins of protection lace around the men remaining on board…but I wasn’t sure. I would like to think it could happen.
At just that moment, M’s ship turned the corner for the harbor…and before long he was in the arms of me, my dog and all of the puppets that inhabit my head – even the somewhat sobered Karagöz himself. We hugged M. extra hard that day, remembering that despite the daily ups and downs of cross-cultural marriage, life is short and every moment is precious…
This amazing installation is described at iamprovincetown.com as follows: “They Also Faced The Sea” installation was designed to keep the spirit and the presence of Portuguese culture alive by Ewa Nogiec, artist, publisher of iamprovincetown.com and owner of Gallery Ehva, and Norma Holt, photographer. The installation of five larger-than-life black and white photographs of Provincetown women of Portuguese descent, mounted on a building at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf in Provincetown Harbor, is conceived as a tribute to the Portuguese community and its fishing heritage. Norma Holt’s photographs from Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum co lection of Almeda Segura, Eva Silva, Mary Jason, Bea Cabral and Frances Raymond, are meant to represent all of the women of Provincetown who over the years have been the backbone of this vital fishing village. They came from a long line of hard-working people, immigrating mostly from the Azores and mainland Portugal. Their families fished the waters off Cape Cod for over 200 years, built a major fish packing and distribution industry and made an important contribution to the history and culture of Provincetown. Portuguese women faced the sea in many ways: as mothers, wives, sisters, friends and family of fishermen, as cooks, laundresses, nurses, teachers and telephone operators. They kept the culture alive, sang the songs, danced the dances, buried the dead, gave birth, cooked and kept the church at the center of their lives. Above all, they were resilient through good times and bad, their strength and courage easily matching and supporting that of their male seafaring counterparts.”
- On my writing about cross-cultural marriage (with the Karagöz puppets) (elizcameron.com)