>enchanted evenings

Baki, Yayla, Deniz, and Nurunisa

On August 20, Ali’s niece, Nurunisa got married. The wedding really began at the neighborhood hairdresser. Fatos, the aunt of the bride, and I pushed aside the wooden beaded curtain at Buyukdere’s local hair salon to find the groom’s sisters already there. The hairdresser allowed himself a brief frisson of excitement at being the epicenter of a local wedding before turning his attention to the expectant heads before him. Baki sidled up to the groom’s niece, Yayla, whom he would steadily work on winning over during the course of the night. In the din of blow-dryers, the women sighed, “The bride has come back to her neighborhood.”
Ali’s family has deep roots in Buyukdere; both his maternal and paternal grandparents had their summer homes there. In fact, Fatos lives in the paternal summer home, not three doors down the road from the home that we would be going to that night for the wedding (and her husband’s family was also from Buyukdere). Ali and my house is an annex to that house, a sort of glorified pantry, kitchen and laundry room that was converted into a house and is now our crooked little home in Istanbul, stuffed full of books and covered in Virginia creepers.
I had passed by the large wooden doors of the groom’s family home many times on my way to the bread bakery next door and often wondered what was behind them. The heavy doors were open a crack that night, with potted flowers spilling forth on to the street. Pushing them open, we found ourselves on a path leading deep into a shaded garden, with a huge magnolia tree hung with white ribbons, and a shaggy yew towering over us by its side. We had left the real world, it seemed, at the door, and everything that followed seemed like a fairy tale or a dream. The huge white wooden house overflowed with family members, with children running out of its rooms, trailing toys. The Bosphorous lapped up on to the side of the garden behind a lavish buffet that had been set out after the marriage certificate was signed, at the feet of a patch of surprisingly happy and productive tomatoes.
In the light of lanterns hung in the garden, we ate among the flowers and replayed everything in our minds and in our conversations; how the bride and groom had looked as they came out of the house and sat before us all, their two families expectantly assembled in white chairs; how serious the bride’s sister, Zulal, had looked as she acted as witness; how Nurunisa had paused ever so slightly before saying, “I do.” The sky deepened in color and the children were gradually changed out of their party clothes as parents thought wistfully of bedtime, and Nurunisa and Deniz took their leave, going to the waterfront to be picked up by a boat where they would meet their friends, many of them come from America for the wedding, for a Bosphorous cruise.
The following night was the reception. This was a more formal event, and I acted accordingly and dutifully returned to the hairdresser, this time to have my hair elaborately arranged. On my first night in Istanbul, the night before the wedding, I had gone to see Maya at her restaurant. Walking through Taksim and down Siraselviler to Cihangir, I saw all of these people all dressed up to go out. Where were they all going, I wondered? Well, on Saturday night, with my hair lacquered into shape, with a long black linen dress on, I felt like I was privy to a secret of some sort as we wound through Istanbul traffic towards the wedding reception. It was to be held in Emirgan, on the Bosphorous, on the terrace of the huge restored mansion that is the Sakip Sabanci Museum resatuarant. Entering the museum grounds at night and winding through its huge, pampered garden, I once again felt as if I were entering a story (I think this may be what happens when you feel that you are not living your own life any more!).
Deniz and Nurunisa’s arrival was preceded by a video montage of the wedding the night before and a series of childhood photographs. The air in on the terrace seemed to dampen as everyone dabbed at their eyes, but there was little time to recover before the bride and groom appeared and danced sweetly before the gathered crowd.
Baki had fallen asleep in the car, but awoke about an hour and a half after we arrived and promptly disappeared on to the dance floor, racing about and making friends wherever he went. He was eventually reunited with Yayla, whom he followed around for a spell. The floor vibrated with dancing. From the father of the bride to the staff behind the bar, no one’s feet seemed to stay put.
It was after 1 a.m. when we finally left for home and consigned the night to our dreams (and I did dream about it for several nights afterwards). I suppose that everyone who has a big wedding is hoping for something enchanted, and this was definitely a wedding touched by a breath of magic.

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