One year ago, I sat on a sunny porch with dear friend and fellow artist, Trici Venola. It was my first Christmas away from home, but Trici’s cozy apartment tucked away in the middle of Cihangir, an Istanbul neighborhood, was becoming as familiar to me as any home I had known.
However, I still found it hard to be so far away from my family and found myself desperately searching for the familiar. So, on Christmas Eve, Trici and I sang carols in a small church by the Galata Tower, and then settled in to watch Its a Wonderful Life while we ate chocolate and wore Ottoman house coats. Ok, not exactly what I do every Christmas Eve, but Trici was becoming like family and Istanbul was my surreal home. I fell asleep among Trici’s five rescued kitties and woke up in the morning to fresh coffee with cinnamon sticks, dates and figs with yogurt and the sun coming in through the windows. We opened gifts and sipped coffee while listening to the familiar sounds of Istanbullus bustling on the streets below.
In the late afternoon, we wandered to our favorite cafe where we ate a full Christmas breakfast of mini pancakes, Pekmez (a Turkish molasses) with Tahini, cheese, olives, salad, honey with cream and endless cups of çay. In the evening, I sat in front of my computer where I saw my whole family open their presents in between the broken internet connection.
I am overjoyed to be with them this year, in our familiar Wyoming home. But, as I look around the house, I see Turkish carpets on the floors, Trici’s drawings on the walls, and Pekmez on our breakfast table. I know the influence from Istanbul will always be with me, and my Turkish Christmas with Trici will always be in my heart.