I’m pretty sure you’re pronouncing Handan’s name wrong.
But hey, I’ve been wrong before. Remember last month?
I would have bet tall stacks of cash that most of you were pronouncing ‘Navage’ wrong.
What happened instead?
Most of you had it right!
But with Handan’s name, I’m more confident that you’re getting it wrong.
And Barish (actually spelled Barış in Turkish)?
You’re definitely pronouncing his name wrong!
I’ll bet you a chicken dinner!
Unless you know some Turks, in which case, all bets are off.
Anyway, we’ll circle back to those names at the end of the post, and I’ll also tell you what the names mean. Unlike in America, where our names are generally just sounds we respond to, in Turkey, all names have meaning – surnames and given names alike.
Okay, so ever since we moved to America, Handan’s been clamoring to go to a church service. She grew up in a predominantly Muslim country that is accepting and tolerant of other religions, but those other religions only comprise about 1% of the population.
Suffice it to say, churches are a rarity in Turkey, and Handan had never been to one.
So she’d say, “My babes, can you take us to a church one of these Sundays?”
And I’d say, “Umm, yeah, of course, my babes.”
And then I’d forget all about it, and life would carry on as it always had.
But not this Christmas.
This Christmas, Handan informed me that this year we would be going to church on Christmas Eve.
She even picked out a church!
A coworker had told her that the First Church of Christ in Wethersfield, CT does the best Christmas Eve service around.
Handan told me, and I looked it up to see what all the hubbub was about.
The First Church of Christ building was built in 1761, but the congregation was formed in 1635!
Jeezum Crow, that’s old!
The cemetery also dates from the mid 1600s.
True story: when I was a kid, my dad used to call cemeteries “marble farms.” I thought this was hilarious, so of course, decades later, I informed Handan of the name when we first drove past one back in 2013. Thinking that was the official American name, she used it in casual conversations at work.
Hilarity ensued, I’m sure.
I only caught on when Handan, Barish and I drove past a cemetery one day and Handan turned to young Barish and said, “That’s a marble farm.”
Thank god I wasn’t drinking coffee at that moment, or it would’ve ended up all over the windshield!
Good lord, she had taken me literally!
Anyway back to Christmas Eve. My parents were scheduled to come over for drinks and gifts and dinner that night, so I had to pick the earliest of the 3 Christmas Eve services.
Besides for weddings and funerals, I hadn’t set foot in a church since I was in high school.
I picked Handan up early from work, we went home to put on our holiday best, and we made our way across the Connecticut River to Historic Wethersfield.
Worried that we might not get a parking spot (Handan told me how popular this service was), I made sure we arrived 30 minutes early.
The parking lot was empty.
Okay, so maybe the first service – the one for families with babies and little kids – wasn’t as popular as the night services.
We exited the car, bundled up against the biting cold and made our way across the vast and empty parking lot towards the towering steeple of this historic monument.
We reached the door.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be met with lightning bolts or bathed in heavenly light as my foot crossed the threshold. Either seemed equally likely.
But nothing happened but for a blast of warm air as we stepped out of the cold and darkening air and into the quiet and softly-lit church.
We took our seats near the back. Handan wanted to take in the scene.
She told me to take a picture, but the last time I’d been in a church, portable phones were just emerging, and they sure as hell didn’t have cameras.
I felt like a boob as I cautiously pulled my phone from my pocket.
But then I looked around and saw that someone else was taking pictures and others still had their noses in their phones.
So. Even the house of God wasn’t immune from the incursions of technology.
Still, I felt like a heel, so I snapped two quickies and then shoved my phone back in my pocket.
I may not be a Pious Pete, but I know enough to respect another’s House of Worship.
It must be incredible as darkness falls!
After some opening Christmas carols and a message for the children beautifully spoken by one of the associate ministers, the senior minister took center stage and delivered his Christmas sermon.
But maybe “sermon” is the wrong word.
To me, it evokes stern men in robes reminding us of our sins.
This wasn’t anything like that.
The minister told the story of the Nativity.
Now, it’s a story that most of us are familiar with. We’ve heard it a thousand times.
But the minister told the story as it may have actually happened.
In a time with no technology.
No running water.
No cell phones.
He told of a child born in a barn, surrounded by animals, stench and filth in conditions unheard of in today’s antiseptic world.
He told of a conflicted and anguished man who chose to stand by his wife, knowing full well the baby in her belly was not his.
He told of a mess and the great miracle that arose from it.
The Miracle in the Mess.
And then he drew the parallels to our own lives in this clean and modern world.
He spoke of Christmas cards with perfect families in perfect poses – well-behaved children and even the dog is smiling!
“Is this reality?” He asked.
The entire congregation shook their heads.
His message was that our lives are not perfect, and they likely never will be, but within that mess, we can still find miracles.
I looked at Handan while the minister spoke.
She was transfixed, her head nodding up and down.
And tears filled her eyes.
At that moment, I was so happy we came to this service.
She’d been having a tough go at work with a new employee in a position of power. I think the message she heard gave her hope.
We left the church, and I promised myself to take her back there from time to time.
Christmas Eve with my parents was perfect. We exchanged gifts, listened to carols and managed to forget about the world for a while. Even Penny got into the spirit.
Over the next couple of weeks, conditions at Handan’s job got worse.
The mess just kept getting messier, and it was taking its toll on my babes.
During this time, we had to take a little trip on unrelated business.
Handan was the lowest I’d ever seen her, consumed by stress and worry. She couldn’t enjoy a single moment of the trip.
And the worst part was there was nothing I could do.
She was surrounded by her own dark cloud, and it followed her everywhere. She couldn’t escape its oppression. I looked out of the window after takeoff, and as we pierced a cloud, I imagined it was like what Handan felt.
I had tried to remind her of Christmas Eve.
I had tried to find the Miracle in her Mess.
But nothing worked.
And just when we were both about to flame out and plunge towards earth, a brightening…
A break in the clouds.
She got news that she would be starting on a new project in a different location.
Better than a break in the clouds; we were above the clouds.
At once, the weight was gone.
The air was clear.
This was the miracle we needed.
And it came from the middle of the biggest mess we’ve faced.
What was a nightmare just a few weeks ago, Handan now considers a blessing. Without that mess, she wouldn’t have started the ball rolling towards her miracle.
Now we can look back and look down at what caused so much pain free from worry and free from anger.
It is below us.
It is behind us.
I know, I know, now you’re all like “Oh my god! What’s happening!”
Relax, madam. All good things, I promise!
But Handan will need to travel a bit during the start of this project, so for the next few months, she’ll mostly be gone.
I’ll be here with Barish, missing her and carrying on as best I can until we’re able to be a whole family again.
Since she is fully half of this blog, my posting will likely decrease to one post per week until she’s back with us permanently again.
But fret not, madam! It’ll only be for a few months, and then The Navage Patch will be stronger than ever – I promise you that!
Now, to the business you’ve all been waiting for: how to pronounce Handan and Barish!
Okay, first off, let’s talk about what those names mean. As I said before, in Turkey, all names have meaning, and many names are the exact same word for everyday things.
“Handan” comes from ancient Persian. It means “smiley face” or “someone who makes others smile.”
Barish’s full name is Barış Eren Şengezen, and it means “Peace Saint Happy Traveler.”
Couldn’t be more spot-on!
Okay, okay, okay. Pronunciations.
Handan = “Han” like Han Solo or Honda and “dan” like Don or Donald. There is a slight stress on the first syllable.
So were you pronouncing it right, or were you saying “Hand Anne” or “Hand Enn?”
As for Barish – his is even weirder.
If you’re saying “Bear-ish” or “Barr-ish” (like bar of soap), well you’re wrong.
But if on the slim chance you’re saying “Buddish,” well then madam, I owe you a chicken dinner!
Okay, gotta wrap it up for this month’s Navage Haps because there’s a ton happening right now at The Navage Patch, and I’m just trying to keep up and stay awake!
‘Til next time!