My Kingdom For An Airplane...
Airplanes were at once the biggest thrill and the biggest disappointment of my childhood. In 1950s Istanbul our hearts gave a leap every time a plane passed overhead, so rarely did one pass!
I used to gaze up at those big metal birds and wonder what they were. My stubborn insistence on learning everything by myself extended even to those winged creatures made of metal. (How did I know they were made of metal? Who knows...)
But one day I couldn’t stand it any longer and I asked somebody. I no longer remember whether they said ‘flying machine’ or ‘airplane’. But that’s how I learned that they were vehicles that could fly through the sky.
But I still couldn’t figure it out. For me land transport meant the train, the tram, the private automobile, and the Turkish-style ‘dolmush’ or share-cab. I couldn’t even quite imagine a bus. Sea-going vessels of course meant the Istanbul ferryboats that plied back and forth between the city’s two sides. (We lived in Kadıköy on the Asian shore and some days we crossed over to the European side by ferry.)
And now the airplane! People rode on it. It was a very
swift-moving mode of transportation, used more for traveling to faraway countries.
That was all well and good, but how could people fit into such a tiny craft? I pondered that question for days on end. And in the end I found the answer: they must have some special way of making people smaller to fit them inside the plane!
Suddenly airplanes seemed very attractive to me. I was going to get on one myself some day and then—whatever they did, however it was done—I would become smaller than the fireflies I was so fond of. And so would my mom, my dad, and everybody else that was with me.
When I was four years old my father went to Germany. He stayed there for two years as a visiting faculty member in a university. Letters and postcards came thick and fast. And in six months we were going to go there too. My excitement knew no bounds.
At the beginning of autumn our neighbor Mrs Fahriye and her taxi-driver husband drove us—my mom, my big sister and me—to the airport. I was so happy I was about to burst. It was a long journey: first the car-ferry, then the endless, deserted roads. Finally we reached Yeşilköy! On the ground, on the tarmac, stood the airplanes, which suddenly looked huge!
My mom, who was going abroad for the first time, was busy getting our passports stamped. I in the meantime was asking where those tiny little airplanes were that we were going to ride on. Nobody had the faintest idea what I was talking about. Suddenly I burst out bawling. Nobody understood anything I was trying to say. That was the start of my first falling out with this world.
But it wasn’t long before we were high in the purple-tinged sunset sky. I am eternally grateful to the airplane for sweeping the ground out from under my feet that day.