Sevgi Gönül: “I miss you, mom...”
For as long as I can remember, I wandered the flea markets and curiosity shops with my late mother, who was interested in old knick-knacks.
In these types of shops—and you’d need a thousand witnesses to say they were shops—all the things thought to be old and things that really were old were piled up in a heap, displayed in dust and grime.
In order to find something genuinely old among them, you needed to look very carefully and spend a good deal of time. Rare as it was, it was possible to find some interesting and old pieces, and for reasonable prices.
At those times, the knowledgeable antiques dealers you see today were rare in Istanbul, and there were no scholars at the flea market. I enjoyed this type of shop very much. To find something that no-one else had spotted, even if it was hard, gave me and my mother a thrill. (p. 84)
Sevgi Gönül, Sevgi’nin Diviti (From Sevgi’s Pen), Vehbi Koç Vakfı Yayınları, İstanbul, 2003, p. 84; Hürriyet, December 16, 2001***
My mother was an extremely conservative and traditional person.
She was religious, I don’t know whether that was because of my older sister who kept getting ill or something else, but she was a person who trusted God and always carried out her worship, but she also had many non-Muslim friends. Although she had a very soft voice and a very good temper, she raised us all with a lot of discipline. She would give each of us individual attention and was never sparing with compassion.
Throughout her life, she lived with her mother-in-law and was very respectful of my father. Whenever he left or arrived at the house, she would always meet him and accompany him in.
Throughout the days we lived together, I only saw them fight once, and I didn’t know what to do. My father was a workaholic and he didn’t have the time to cater to his wife’s wishes, but as he was an extremely tidy person, he had no tolerance for the slightest bit of mess. He was a difficult man.
My mother took all these difficulties in her stride and said nothing. If it were me I wouldn’t have tolerated it, but it was evident she loved my father very much. On top of that, there was no question of courting in that era and as my father was her aunt’s son she had only seen him once before they got married.
She was very neat and tidy and a great housewife. She knew home economics very well. As she didn’t know how to cook, she was continually watching the chef, trying to overcome her complex over her lack of knowledge, and she would beg us, “Whatever you do, go to the kitchen and learn some things from the cook.” It must have backfired, because none of us ever learnt to cook. Supposedly, the way to the heart is through the stomach...
She never related our problems to our father, she always tried to solve them herself. When we got married she put a large amount of money in our pockets. It turned out that her own mother had not given her money, and that at that time as my mother was a newly-wed she was too embarrassed to ask for money, so she had suffered for days without any. And when we were married, she gave us advice: “If you fight with your husbands, don’t come telling me; you will kiss and make up, but I won’t forget it.” She always took the side of her bride and grooms. She was extremely respectful of them, just so we girls and her bride would be happy. She would come to the door to welcome them, just as she did for her husband. She was a good housekeeper and never bragged about it.
She made very beautiful knitting and lacework. She was very hard working and never wasted time. She followed politics very closely, and she would host all the Anatolian traders’ wives with the same grace as the politicians’ wives she met through her husband.
She was very interested in the garden and flowers, and especially in folk remedies made from herbs. She would try them all on us. She forced us all to drink donkey’s milk, because she believed it was very close to mother’s milk. She was very generous, whenever she went anywhere on a trip, whatever she bought she would buy five of it—one for her own home, and one each for her four children. She never made any distinction between us. Every child had to have everything. She loved beauty. She chose to buy beautiful things.
Sometimes I think I’m glad I don’t have a child, because I could never have been a mother of her quality, so compassionate and selfless. God knows well what he will give to each person.
I don’t know if your short life merited so much sacrifice, but it is this that makes me remember you with such joy.
Mom, I miss you.
Sevgi Gönül, Sevgi’nin Diviti (From Sevgi’s Pen), Vehbi Koç Vakfı Yayınları, Istanbul, 2003, pp. 128-29; Hürriyet, May 12, 2002
“I can still recall my mom’s scent after 30 years”
My mother lived almost all of her life with her mother-in-law. She had a hard-working husband who had no other joys in his life but work. He was a man who made a lot of money, always invested his money in his business and avoided luxury. To such an extent that he was a husband who could comfortably say, “I’m very tired, let’s not go tonight” at the last minute to a woman who had dressed herself up, got a hairdresser to come to the house and spent all day preparing for the Republic Ball, which at that time everyone was desperate to go to. My mother was very helpful to my father, who provided emotional support to his little sister, who had lost her husband at a young age. In short, my mother was a long-suffering woman, and if Vehbi Koç managed to succeed in building a giant business empire, he is fifty percent in his wife’s debt, no-one should be fooled about that.
My father was a very neat man, he would regularly open the drawers, take the bottom handkerchief and ask for the cupboards to be reordered. I will never forget, he had an operation and on his first day out of bed, he tidied all the files; I was surprised at his neatness. My mother tolerated this difficult man. I always wonder if she was in love with this man, whom she had married without seeing or meeting. I never understood. As you know, that is the Anatolian upbringing; feelings should not be made clear, or it would be rude. My mother revered my father. She arranged the whole house according to my father’s way of living. Meal times, bed times, times for listening to the news - she arranged everything, absolutely everything according to him. Even if we girls were not as self-sacrificing as she was, we have tried to apply what we saw from our mother for our own husbands.
My mother raised four children. Each of us had health problems and school problems and my mother dealt with all of them; she tried not to let my father see our problems so he had a clear head for work.
Sevgi Gönül, Sevgi’nin Diviti (From Sevgi’s Pen), p. 262; Hürriyet, May 11, 2003