Shopping: Write about your shopping wishlist and how you like to spend money.
Baba was very clear in that he didn’t want me to have a quinceañera, but Mami put her foot down and said that then she’d simply remove him from the guest list. At home, my quinceañera was a tense debate, emotional, almost visceral, like pretty much everything between them, and even that morning, as we were getting ready to leave for the mercado, they were still going at it.
“Shame on you!” Baba told Mami, taking to the sink the plate where they had shared breakfast.
That was one weird thing they’d always had; they would have breakfast, and sometimes dinner, from the same plate. We never really understood what that was all about, and the explanations they’d give us went from saying it was a cultural thing, to arguing that it meant fewer dishes to clean. Whatever the reason was, we always thought it was cute, and with time it just became a signature of their relationship and their love.
“You’re always talking about feminism this and feminism that, yet you have no problem having your daughter go through one of the most sexists traditions of all.”
“Oh, really? Have you been reading a lot on it, or you’re going off of what you’ve heard me say here and there?” She didn’t let him answer and said, “It’s a cultural thing, okay? You wouldn’t understand. I had one, my sisters had one, my cousins had one. All of Hazel’s cousins either had or will have one, too. So she’s gonna have one.”
“It’s gonna cost us a fortune, and I’m not even gonna enjoy it.”
There was the silence. Not silence, the silence. The silence was what we called it when Baba said something wrong both he and Mami realized it right after. Neither would say a word. Baba, because he was bracing for what was coming, and Mami, well, because as we had learned to understand, she was working on what she was going to say, crafter her argument, polishing it. The silence usually meant that we were about to get one of her lectures. Some were laced with humor, some were more somber, and some took unnecessary shots at Baba’s culture. It was evident that even twenty years in, their marriage was still rough around the edges, and their cultural differences will surface here and there. It had never been much of a problem, a couple of comments and it was over, they were back to loving each other to pieces.
“Well, then that’s too bad because it’s not meant to be for you to enjoy. It’s about Hazel, remember? Plus, remember Isabella’s quinceñera? Haze loved it!”
“That’s true, Babişko,” I said from the living room. “It was a lot of fun. Plus, everyone at school was talking about it for, like, a week.”
“You see?” Mami said, encouraged. “She wants this, it’s going to be important for her.”
Baba rolled his eyes, defeated. It was like that with them a lot, on both sides. There were battles that each knew they couldn’t win. Mami hadn’t gone out of her way to fight Baba’s sabbatical in Turkey, Baba wasn’t going to make a big deal out of my quince.
Mami was clear, though, in that she didn’t want anyone other than her to see the dress. There wasn’t a reason as to why, other than she wanted to be the only one to give input. Like a good older brother, Furkan didn’t mind too much. Little Derya was a bit more disappointed. At first, Baba had suggested we take her with us, but he quickly understood that a 5-year-old running around wasn’t going to be much help.
Mami had been asking around in Church to see which stores were the best ones to find quinceañera dresses, and Paquita had recommended her niece’s boutique. Oh wow were Mami’s first words when we went in.
“You’ll look like a Christmas tree,” she whispered in my ear.
I knew her well, and I knew there was no way we would buy anything there, still, Paquita had told her niece that we were coming, so for Mami keeping the appointment was the least she could do.
“Anita!” The woman said, getting Mami in a hug. “How’s everything going? I’m sorry I haven’t been to church that much, you know, I’ve been very busy with the shop. Now that things are slowly going back to normal we have a year and a half worth of quinceñeras to make up for!”
Mami smiled, knowing as well as I did that she was lying. The reason she hadn’t been back to Church was that Padre Mateo had found out that her roommate was actually her girlfriend and they had excommunicated her. I knew all about it because the day she found out, Mami came home and ranted for close to an hour to a poor Baba who only wanted to see his Sunday football highlights.
“Like I told them,” she’d started, pacing in front of the TV, Baba trying unsuccessfully to catch a glance, “what’s wrong with you people? Is that how Jesus told you to love your neighbor? Of course, but then your band of rapists that is okay, right? Another scandal in that Parochial school of yours, I heard everything about it, but that is hush hush, right? I’ll tell padre Mario to send you his blessing from his new assignment, right?”
“Annie,” Baba dared to say. “If you ask me, that sounds like a you problem. You’re the one who stays, even though you’re mad, even though you don’t see eye-to-eye with your church all the way back to when they opposed our marriage.”
And then the silence. Mami knew he was right, but she also knew there was more to it. We all knew it, actually.
“You know how things are for me, Berkan,” she started. “I was born a Catholic and I shall die a Catholic. Like my mother, and her mother before me, and like that all the way to colonization. Because sure as hell I’m not some tree worshiper. God knows that’d be horrible, but killing thousands in the name of God isn’t.”
Baba had rolled his eyes and let out a sigh. Now, in that store, all I could do was to text him quickly, as Mami looked at the different dresses with pretended interest. I had to warn him so that he could get ready, because tonight, for sure, we would have to listen to one of Mami’s lectures. I was already bracing myself for it.