My mom's friend, my namesake Zeynep, sent her pictures of these photos from the mid 1970s while they were working as English teachers at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey.
Zeynep is the wild, curly haired beauty second from the left with the read sweater and requisite cigarette. My mom, Seyyare Silivrili (her maiden name) is to her right, with the flowered, mint green dress. This was about a decade before I was born, which makes my mom in her late 20s here.
I am sure the daughters, sons, partners of all the people in these pictures have a beautiful tapestry of stories to weave in, but I wanted to write about it for me.
I am well familiar with the feeling of homesickness. The gravitational pull of mixed feelings, gnawing. Sometimes I even get nostalgic for the various homesickness feelings I have had at different times of my life. But looking at these photographs of my mother, I'm timesick. Nostalgic for a time that I didn't even exist in.
It's impossible to know who was feeling, thinking what in these photographs. I have asked my mom and she says that this was just a regular Friday night with her colleagues, but I want to know everything. If Ankara was a warmer, kinder place. How did everyone relate to each other? What were they joking about? What had happened that day in the news?
Mostly, I want to go back in time and be my mother's best friend, to know her objectively, separately and not as someone part of her. Who did she like? How did she feel taking the campus bus home on a cold winter night, was she lonely? I know I have the luxury of asking her now, but words and answers are simply a simplified abstraction. I want to spend time with her, observing her, maybe talking on the phone after we both get home. How was she in the face of uncertainty?
I spend hours thinking of this in circles, and each time I have to pull the brakes on myself and to jet back to the present. And to simply look at the photos for what they are: capturing light reflecting off of biological and man-made surfaces for a tiny sliver of time. But, if anything, that timesickness feeling helps me reconnect to the fact that we're all doing the best we can, across time and space. That we are flawed and perfect, all at the same time.