The Turquoise Radio
Don’t stop, can’t stop the feet
Won’t stop, won’t stop the beat and go
Every single summer morning that I was around, my grandma turned on my grandpa’s turquoise radio at 11 am to wake me up. A relic that would now be considered a gem by millennial eBayers or Urban Outfitters addicts, the radio became the background music of my dreams as a middle schooler and made me memorize a bunch of Madonna songs without internalizing their lyrics. No matter the beat, I slept through at least an hour of pop music that I never understood why my 70-something-year-old grandma enjoyed. I had never heard her listen to music besides that pop station. I also had no idea what she enjoyed listening to except for that one Turkish dreamboy-of-her-generation that she always swooned over.
(When I met the dreamboy/dreamgrandpa and his dyed-dark-brown hair years after during a TV internship, I told him that I have family members who are obsessed with him. He made a joke about being every mothers’ dream, and I couldn’t tell him that he was actually my grandmother’s dream.)
My parents, for some reason, never wanted to leave me with my relatives for the summer. After, however, they saw me suffer the unbearable summer of Istanbul a few times, they gave up and started sending me over to my grandparents and their summerhouse a few hours away from Istanbul. If Istanbul was to be New York City, their summerhouse town was a very underwhelming version of the Hamptons where people dove into the sea across a bunch of factories that fumed 24/7. My friends and I grew up throwing each other jellyfish with blue rims that would only signal poison to any biology expert, but to us, it was another way to get on each others’ nerves and maybe communicate a mutual liking of each other.
By the time I got into the summerhouse scene, everyone had already become friends. Cool kids gathered around the ping pong table at night — that was available until 10 pm, which was pretty late for half of us and too early for the other half. If you stayed with your grandparents, you had to be in bed by 11 pm; midnight the latest. For kids who stayed with their parents, I had no idea when their curfew ended — but I knew for a fact that whenever I left, they were just getting started.
It took me years to infiltrate into the cool-kids crowd because I never stayed with my grandparents long enough. Two weeks of pop music in the morning to wake me up, and then I would be out. The long-term memory of kids during the summer was not really “long” enough for me to be recognized come next season, either. No one remembered me twelve months later.
The summer of my prep year in high school, I committed to staying with my grandma at the summerhouse. It had almost been nine years since my grandpa had passed away, and no one in the family wanted grandma to be on her own — although she has always been pretty good at being on her own.
To be honest, my existence ended up being kind of a hassle for her. She waited for me to wake up each morning and even had to change her bridge hours to accommodate my teenage stomach and soap opera times — which did not exist in Istanbul because my dad didn’t allow me to watch Turkish TV, believing it would eventually dumb me down.
The summer of my prep year in high school, I stayed with grandma for about a month and I finally made new friends. “You can stay up until midnight,” she said half-heartedly and upgraded my social life of 80+ degrees. On one of my first nights out with my new friends who were either my age or a bit older, we walked to the pergola up a hill by the condo. The parents couldn’t hear what we were saying, so you know, we were cool. A guy started smoking and I watched him in total shock. Another then walked in with a black plastic bag and a sinister smile. He had a bottle of Absolut Vodka and cranberry juice.
I thought of excusing myself, but I still had an hour until midnight so I decided to stick around. Under the roof of the rusty pergola covered with lively grape leaves, I tried to see the sky and the stars. In Istanbul, it is hard to see the stars most of the time, so I raised my head and I did see a few stars beyond the dark green leaves.
Ten years later, I stare out of my window (without craning my neck) and I see a foggy gray tainted with florescent orange. Streetlights in Istanbul are not even orange, I remember. I also forgot to make an epic April Fools joke this year. For the first time in my life, I forgot to make a joke on April 1.
All of a sudden, thanks to a Spotify list named “Have a Great Day!,” a pop song from the 90s blasts in my ear, one that I had seen grandma sway her hips to. I wonder what happened to the turquoise radio, and then I conclude someone threw it away years ago.
Manhattan, April 2017