Our existence is often viewed in cyclical terms – beginnings and ends strung together to create individual lifetimes that add up to generations, young and old, that ultimately preserve humanity.
Always moving forward, our lives are an ode to continuity.
Last week, my youngest host sister, Burul, got married. The process of getting married is much different in Kyrgyzstan than in the United States. Instead of a long engagement period, people in Kyrgyzstan typically hold a nikah, which is an Islamic pre-wedding ceremony that officiates the couple as husband and wife in the eyes of Allah, as soon as possible (in the case of Burul, three days after her and her now-husband decided to get married).
After this ceremony (usually within 1-4 months), the main wedding will take place and the couple will sign a legally binding marriage contract. (I never cease to be amazed with how quickly they can put together beautiful weddings).
Although I have seen weddings in Kyrgyzstan before, Burul’s nikah was the first time I saw the processes leading up to the main wedding.
A few days before the nikah, I watched my host mother, Ainaz, prepare pillows and tushuks (thin mattresses used for sleeping and sitting) that she will give to Burul to take to her new house. In Kyrgyzstan, mothers begin making these tushuks before their children are even born to ensure all of them will have enough when they eventually marry. These textiles are like family heirlooms – when a mother gives her daughter the tushuks she’s made, she will also begin to give away those her mother gave to her on her wedding day, and so on.
Over the course of history, how many brides around the world have looked into the mirror before their wedding ceremony, thinking about the chapter of their lives ending and the one beginning?
Before the ceremony began, female relatives visited Burul, giving her emotional embraces and engaging in a collective catharsis – happy for the beginning of her new life and sad for the end of her old.
The cycle will continue.
One day, Burul will offer her own daughter blessings, giving her the tushuks she made and some of those that were passed down from her mother.
She will likely watch her reflect the same way she did and cry tears similar to the ones shed for her, perhaps finding comfort in the continuance of things.