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December 15, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Debra Larson.

The only day I feared for my life began uneventfully. The sweetness of chai from the last rug shop lingered in my mouth. Savoring the last few moments before being car-bound again, I stretched, throwing my arms out wide and filling my lungs with fresh air. I blew out my breath, dropping my arms and eyeing the car warily. Soon I’d be trapped again with two smokers. And two cats.

My husband Michael and I were visiting his father, a retired Air Force Colonel who now lived and worked in Turkey. As a military attorney, Bill had made connections with a Turkish company that hired him once his military stint, and his marriage, ended. Bill came to our wedding in the U.S. two years earlier, but we hadn’t yet met his new Turkish wife, Mira, or her fourteen-year-old son, Derin. Or the cats.

Derin stood taller than Mira, whose petite frame belied her formidable presence. Both watched the felines gingerly paw the contents of their personal litter boxes, as if their cat memories couldn’t register the purpose of the peculiar grit-filled squares. Mira barked at the cats, insisting they get on with it. Even the cats knew to obey Mira. They complied and she scooped out their messes.

For three days, we’d been traveling together, visiting historical sites and shopping. Our generous hosts arranged this jam-packed road trip, trading their marble-floored luxury apartment for an over-crowded sedan. When I first realized the two cats were coming with us, I was incredulous. Who brings cats on a road trip? I caught the hushed tones of Mira and Bill arguing about it before we left. And here the cats were. Surely, Mira made concessions in the marriage, as well. They just didn’t affect me as directly. Or perhaps they did. Probably the last thing on Mira’s bucket list was yet another tour of the local sites with another one of Bill’s six children.

Now, we were preparing to leave our last stop, Yahyali, a town known for its naturally dyed yarns and handmade carpets, but on the fringe of tourist routes because it abuts a mountain range. We stayed in Yahyali longer than planned. A merchant had charmed us into a third rug shop and, as promised, it was the richest woolen topography we’d seen. Before Mira’s hand was warmed with the customary chai, she flipped over a corner of the top carpet in a stack. In every rug shop we entered, she instantly assessed a specimen’s worth by the size of the hand-tied knots visible on its under side. The smaller the knots, the finer the carpet. Yahyali’s carpets were exceptional, but none could fly, which was the only interesting feature at this point. A direct flight to Bill and Mira’s spacious apartment in Adana was the road trip finale I wistfully imagined. Continue Reading…