Tiny Heartbreaks

So it arrived. This morning, for the first time since Anton was a few months old, when I told him to leave his job, Ville set off for the office. Doing his thesis and freelance projects from home has had its own stresses, namely too many hours, but the benefit has been hardly ever being apart. I often take all the children on day long outings, but short walks around the island, or shopping trips, have nearly always been done together. So today, on top of a lot of relief and happiness, was just a nugget of melancholy regret for this change (this is actually the perfect combination of feelings with which to view Istanbul).

 The first sad thing happened 5 minutes from home. Every day we pass a man in his 30s with special needs, who likes Anton a lot. I spot him waiting poised, and as we approach he dashes into the shop outside of which he sits all day, and comes out with a lollipop to present to Anton. Trouble is Anton has already been given one by the owner of the first shop we walked past. (Yes, I am aware that lollipops wreak havoc on teeth but I have had to weigh that up against refusal being my only interaction with people I see daily, luckily Anton tires of them after a few licks). The man thrusts it forward proudly before realising it is superfluous. My heart breaks a tiny bit at the transparency of his hurt. Anton whines that he doesn't need another lollipop and shows the one he has. Please Anton put it behind your back, flash a smile and take the offering. No chance. The man looks at the floor. I am sure it will be forgotten in an instant, though a smile would have lifted him for hours. But it wasn't mine to give. (I understand my mother's insistence that we smile so much better now).

Much as life on Heybeliada offers Anton great benefits, the downside is that he tends to be accosted from the minute he leaves the house. In summer this becomes almost unmanageable. Being blonde with big blue eyes, many people (teenage boys included) want to touch him, pick him up and kiss him. As the Princes' Islands are a tourist destination for thousands, every day during the summer there is an endless stream of cheek-squeezers. Anton's response to this is chronic shyness with strangers.  He walks hiding behind our legs when he sees groups approaching. This is his prerogative as far as I am concerned when it comes to the influx of the wealthy two-homers, here for two-months to go to the exclusive Heybeliada Su Sporları Kulübü. They greet Anton like they are made kindred by their shared hair colour. Never mind that it's from a bottle. It is just a means to unveiling their true European nature (by covering something darker). And I think this is one of the problems with the worship of Anton's features: as they are not the natural ones here, it is like saying that blonde and blue-eyed is to be preferred. An uncomfortable notion for sure.

The problem with Anton's dislike of interactions, outside of the family and a close circle of friends, is that there are is also a winter community here with which we pass the challenges of island life during the long winter months. I imagined that Anton would take great pleasure in the attentions of this group but so far they are tarred with the same brush. The shopkeepers and street-cleaners are viewed with suspicion (and its fact that they squeeze his cheeks all year long). The only exception has been the fayton (horse-carriage) drivers.
When he was a little over one Anton became obsessed by fayton and was fully indulged by the drivers. They let him sit in waiting carriages, gave him free rides and held him up to stroke the horses.  One driver in particular became a friend of ours and took real pride in his special status with Anton. And this was the cause of today's second little heartbreak (one that has been repeated daily for a couple weeks now). A few weeks ago I commented to Ville that this man's posture had changed completely and he had a spring in his step. Sure enough it transpired that his life was changing and last week, after much preparation, he opened a shoe repair shop on the island. The sad thing has been his realization that Anton's affection was linked entirely to access to his horse and carriage.

The third small sad thing was that a man that used to rush out of his house with little gifts for Anton and I, stayed firmly inside today. Last week he asked us for a tiny sum of money and I hate to think that he feels shame. As we have survived the past two years thanks to many small, short, loans from friends, I understand this feeling all too well. I hope I get the chance to let him know its ok. This slightly soaked old man gave me a plant for mother's day this year, an event we had forgotten about at home. Although, sadly, I think it is about to join every other plant we have ever had, in plant heaven.

I was about to try and end this post in some semi-meaningful way when I had a lovely image of hearing 'Thought for the Day' on Radio 4 every morning as I travelled to work with my friend Helen. This is a short offering by a different religious leader each day in which a random events are imbued with moral meaning or religious messages. I think I will avoid it!

Anton with a blue lollipop and men pushing a cart in the background.
If only he hadn't been given this lollipop.

Anton and his friend the fayton driver.
Anton and our friend the ex-fayton driver in happier times.

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One thoughts on “Tiny Heartbreaks

  1. You describe it so well! I remember arriving in Istanbul airport when Sonny had finally sprouted his blonde hair, we were immediately accosted by security guards wanting a hold and a photo. They had no concept of how it looked for a 2 year old to be surrounded and manhandled by men in uniform 3 times his size- He was terrified!!! Its so hard when you want your children to be polite- but you also feel protective of them, can't imagine what that's like on a daily basis- exhausting!!


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