FG: First Person
l2 December l992
Anxious about my uncertain future, I tell myself that I do, indeed, have a
daimon; that if I work five hundred per cent--try my absolute, very
best--just-reward and compensation will, according to some principle of
cosmic physics, come back to me in direct proportion to the amount of
energy expanded. Yesterday, the gods offered a glimpse of such hope.
In the early morning I gave my coveted corduroy Detroit Pistons cap to
Faruk, a Lise student I adore. Here on refugee status from Yugoslavia,
he's a most insightful, well-adjusted, unabashed young man, and I often
walk-in on him in an empty classroom, while he is practicing his hook shot
with a chalk eraser and an imaginary hoop. So when I sat him down, ordered
him to close his big browns and yanked the cap down between his large ears,
he yelped with joy after he recognized the Pistons logo.
Within an hour's time I gave something else away: a painting I did of
Hisar Camii, to the building maintenance secretary, without whose
connections to the school's underpaid carpenters, guards, electricians and
welders, I'd never have paintings, stretchers or frames. Or studio
furnishings. Or electrical fixtures. Or truck transportation. Once,
after we had met with the carpenter, to order stretchers and frames for
fifteen large paintings, I walked back to the workshops--and Aysun's
office--to inquire as to the carpenter's progress. There I beheld the
beautifully framed paintings arranged along her office walls. Delighted, I
turned to her and grinned, "They look so wonderful here!" Locking her
joined palms between her knees, she sighed, "Oh, Franny, I love them
all!" So when I dragged the five foot painting down to her office she
stamped her feet and wailed, "No, Franny, I will not take it." Oh, yes you
will, I lifted my chin and eyebrows simultaneously, like a Turk, and
planted my hands at my hips.
At morning tea-break the Headmaster calls me to his office and suggests
that I had better attend that afternoon's Closing Ceremony (which I never do). Closing
Ceremony, every Friday afternoon, is an official Ministry mandate. Inasmuch as my Friday
schedule terminates at ll:30, I am on the village road by ll:35, hitchhiking my way towards Istanbul.
Wearing my coat, correcting Othello exams in the last row of the
auditorium, I am ready to bolt. Cross-country awards are complete, and the microphone is passed to a student named Bora. While I am half-way through seventy-five impassioned
essays about character of Emilia, I hear something about a painting.
Frozen, I roll my eyeballs inside their lids, hold my breath, and hear Bora declare that a group of them love both the painting and the artist. My heart slumps, then recovers: palpating, throbbing, pumping, shaking. My
chin drops to my sternum and the student next to me cuddles her arms around my neck, "Oh, m'am, we love you!"
"So," continues the microphone, "We all decided to buy the painting and
give it to the school: in honor of the artist, Ms. Golden. Ms. Golden?
M'am? Where are you? Will you please come up here and share the light?"
Eight-hundred-fifty students begin to hoot and clap and stamp their feet.
Though stunned, I do see two Lise students, marching from stage left,
parading between them an art room easel, on which is perched a large
painting--draped with somebody's dormitory bed sheet.
"M'am, where are you!" the microphone demands. Surrounding students pull
me to my feet and push me to the aisle. The throng cheers and claps and
stamps, "Gol-den! Gol-den! Gol-den!"
Numbness creeps across my skin, then burrows deep into my hair follicles.
I can neither see nor hear. Still, I find myself at the foot of the stage,
being tugged and hugged and kissed by a blur of red and black uniforms.
With dramatic flurry Ebru jerks the striped bed sheet from the painting,
revealing a sunflower image from last month's Gallery Arsiv show. "Oh's,"
and "ahs" current the crowd and, again, they yell and cheer my name in
hyphenation. At last Ebru hands me a list of students' names: those who
have contributed to this remarkable shock. More hoots and cheers and
I rear back to the front row of seats and collapse, studying the list of
names--thirty-five students as well as the Turkish Military Headmaster,
Atakan Bey. I am dumbfounded: astonished at his participation and
When we all stand for the Turkish National Anthem, I spy the portly,
thickset little Ataken Bey at his official place behind the stage
microphone--smiling and winking at me with his half-bowed-head. I cry and
ponder my daimon.
Postscript: Across from the Headmaster's office, the elegantly framed
painting hangs, to which a bronze plaque has been affixed: "Presented to Koc Ozel Lisesi, by
students in honor of the artist, Franny Golden, their teacher and friend."