La Grande Famiglia

As I am sitting behind my kitchen table and listening to Macy Gray song "Glad You're Here" all I can think of is my family and here is why.

It was the summer of 2007, July 2007 to be exact. We headed down to south of Italy as a family; all the way down to the tip of the heel, to beautiful Lecce. We went there because my cousin's wife was from there and they were renewing vows.

Like all big families, our most efficient and fully functional time limit together was 20 hours max; not even a full day. What followed after that was a complete circus. It was a mental -and even physical at times- war, where every side from different generations has a very valid point to make and be understood. Speaking of generations, there were 4 of them at this Lecce vacation so you do the math for level of absurdity that might rise and rise during simple conversations that start with a "Good morning" because that was enough. As the sun rose and our day began, so did the craziness.


We were always together and we each had problems of our own. I, for one, was stuck on pilates and yoga those days. I really wanted to wake up at sunrise and climb to the roof of the villa we were staying at to do yoga with the first rays of the sun. But I never could because we were always drinking gallons of wine at night and laughing like the circus monkeys we were as a family every night so I never could wake up the next morning. Big problem to have, I know...

Ali, my cousin's son of 7-months at the time had his own problems as well. Just because he was 7-months old, we didn't ignore his feelings. Feelings are important in my family, we prioritize them before anything else.

On that particularly beautiful Lecce morning, we were going to this south Italian beach about an hour drive away from us, which was supposed to have been one of the best beaches in southern Mediterranean coast. Caterina, my cousin's gorgeous wife had rented this big ass van to fit the crazy Turkish family in and the way she was driving that giant thing through and around tiny Lecce streets, where a man could barely walk through still blows my mind to this day. I think to drive that well, you have to be a little insane, aka Italian. There were about 10-15 of us in the van. My aunt Nilgun was holding Ali, who started crying so loudly and suddenly that we thought she dropped him on the bumps, which obviously was not the case. Truth was far funnier. Ali's diaper was put on too loosely that when the little creature's food came out on the other end as little pieces of brown shit, he sort of...pooped on himself and on my aunt's arms and hands and probably a little bit on her dress too. This was followed by inevitable chaos inside our van of mobile screams and laughter, which continued on with conversations such as:

My aunt looking at Ali and the brown pieces of poop all over her saying "Can somebody please give me a napkin or wet wipes or something? STOP! Stop laughing and help me" to which Ali's grandmother replies "Nilgun, wait a second! I should have something in my bag. I'm looking for it. Wait!" and throwing angry looks at her husband - Ali's grandfather- saying "Teoman, what did you do with the napkins in my beach bag??" to which innocent and clueless Teo replies "I didn't do anything with your napkins or your beach bag!? I don't even know what's happening right now!" Nilgun's husband, which makes him Ali's second degree uncle or something, I don't even know- is laughing up his sleeves at his wife, who is still covered in baby poop and meanwhile my cousin and I -not Ali's father, my other cousin, with whom I share things like age, size, looks, astrological signs, both main and rising signs- taste in food, men and chocolate as well as mindset, are only laughing and not really partaking in the collective but pretty dysfunctional efforts of helping Nilgun and Ali, all the while Ali screams louder and louder because not only is he covered in shit but now a van full of people are also laughing at him; sorry with him at the situation. Regardless, kid is more and more upset at this whole thing and the hasty grownup, who couldn't even manage to tie a diaper properly. Why oh why did he have to come to earth as part of this family!? Oh dear God! We felt for him. Like I said, we were a family, who prioritized feelings before anything else, including cleaning shit apparently.

Yes, we were La Grande Famiglia that summer, mix of crazy Turks and cool Italians and we all had different problems. We were just perfect and unbreakable. Everyone managed to contribute a piece of themselves to the chaos and also gained their share of craziness from the mix. I have been to tropical rain forests since then and been on luxury US trips on the company Amex. No vacation has ever been as refreshing and rejuvenating as the Lecce trip I had with my big family. We were an invincible team together, half Turkish half Italian, constantly making fun of each other and hugging so intimately for so long that an American would have probably sued someone for incessantly violating his/her personal space.

One of the most beautiful memories I left with from the craziness was Macy Gray...I had been listening to her captivating voice for quite some time even before this vacation but it was my cousin and other cousin's husband, who introduced me to one of her older songs. Until then, she had accompanied me on many sad nights alone and really happy days together with friends. Her voice had this weird resonance, which completely ruled over me. She was a lion trainer and I was a lion turned kitty with her voice, no joke.

Back then, I was mostly listening to The Big, her 2007 album and we didn't have Spotify yet so any efforts to discover a new artist and his/her grandiose of talent would have to come from one's own dedication to do so, which was definitely not as easy as typing up someone's name on the search box and having everything he/she had ever produced listed right in front of your eyes, chronologically or by popularity as you wish. No, we were still in the dark times then. Facebook was still not as big in Europe as it was on US soil; Napster had lost its legal battle long ago, leaving peer-to-peer sharers confused and Limewire the only reasonable source for music sharing. Therefore I wasn't quite aware of her gem of an album, On How Life Is and in that album, that song...A song that had such a staggering impact on me that I literally did not listen to any other song for about 2 months. I was obsessed. It was Do Something that did this to me. After 7 years and countless times of listening to it, I finally had the unforgettable experience of listening to it sang live by Macy Gray the Graytest herself the other week in New York, two nights in a row. It was by far the most amazing, most unforgettable, most unreal musical experience of my life of 29 years. I can only hope to get to that level of concentration and amazement in anything else I do from now on. That was my peak in life, which I will write about separately. 

Today, Macy Gray reminds me how much I love and miss my crazy Grande Famiglia. Without family love, one hardly feels like one belongs to something or somewhere. You might have learned the indescribable importance of family through an abundance of familial system of emotional support or through lack of it. Either way, you can only try to achieve it yourself when you start your own family. I consider myself very lucky to have learned that through abundance of family relationships that are unique to mine. I'm sure Macy Gray the Graytest had her own unique family history to support her through rough times and make her write songs as timeless as Do Something; lyrics wrapped inside melodies that traveled all the way from her heart to mine and made me write this up today.

Art is beautiful, isn't it?