My Educated Head Scarf
Seran Celik left school at the age of 11 in Turkey. The silk head scarf her mother gives her is too lovely to wear while she cleans houses in Calgary, but it sees her through sorrow and sickness. Now she is a lunch supervisor and classroom assistant, proudly covering her “educated head” with her beautiful scarf.
I wore a blue and brown silk head scarf in 2009 on my last night in Turkey before moving to Canada. My cousins were students at the University of Sublime Mountain, and they had bought the scarf for my mom. My mom gave it to me because I was leaving. It was good quality and pretty, and respected because it was from my educated cousins.
I stopped school at age 11 and went to sewing and drawing classes. Then I worked at a sewing job. When I came to Canada, my first job was cleaning houses. My blue and brown silk head scarf was too nice to wear to that job.
But I did wear that scarf to doctor appointments. I wanted to look good. It is hard to be an immigrant with not much English and not much education in the medical system. About a year after I arrived in Calgary, I went to a clinic for my sore and swollen knee. The physician sent me for an X-ray. A few days later, he said I had bone cancer. I was so upset.
How could I tell my mom? She was in Turkey and would feel sad and helpless. I worried that if I fell asleep, I might not wake up and then who would take care of my three-month-old daughter? I did not have enough English to communicate my questions. I didn’t tell anyone other than my husband.
At the cancer centre, they injected medication into my knee. I was not allowed to touch my baby for 24 hours. She was crying. Afterwards, the doctors said, “You are lucky you don’t have cancer.” I couldn’t understand properly, so I was still sad.
A few years later, I was in the medical system again and wearing my blue and brown scarf. I was pregnant with our second daughter. Without any relatives here, we felt our first daughter needed a sibling. When I was ten weeks pregnant, we went for an ultrasound, and they sent me for more tests. The doctor called another doctor. I asked, “What’s the matter?” They said something was wrong. They booked me into a genetic clinic. They said, “If you want to keep the baby, you can, but if you want an abortion, you have to decide before the fetus is 22 weeks old.”
Because my English was still limited, I had no one to talk to. I called my mom in Turkey. She is my friend and counsellor and always supports me.
It was a hard decision, but I decided to keep the baby. Five months into the pregnancy, we went for another ultrasound. They said, “The baby’s heart is beating, but her body is not moving.” I thought this meant she was physically disabled, too. Then, when I was eight months pregnant, I got shingles. That was painful.
All through that pregnancy, my blue and brown silk scarf was not just covering my hair. It was covering all my sadness and my stress. Nobody but me knew what was under the scarf and in my head. But a month later, I had a 100% healthy baby girl. Now my scarf is once again only covering hair, not my emotions.
When I cleaned houses, I saw that people had books on their bedside table, and so now I also read books at night. My English is better, and I proudly wear my blue and brown scarf to my job as a lunch supervisor with the Calgary Board of Education. I am proud to be living in Canada, a place where my daughters will be able to finish school — and where my head scarf now covers my educated head.
SERAN CELIK was born in Aksaray, Turkey and grew up in the city of Manisa. She moved to Calgary in 2009 and works for the Calgary Board of Education as a lunch supervisor and classroom assistant. Seran loves to help people.