Meadow Heights: the love child of Broadmeadows. She has her mother’s green fields, windy roads and tired hills that have slanted after years of carrying ungrateful homes on her back. Her mini shopping centre satisfies kebab cravings, and the imported Turkish goods crowd delicatessen shelves, bringing excited locals greetings from their homeland. The local video shop is in an endless identity crisis, changing names often, whereas the Meadow Heights Primary School juggles identities in portable classrooms. Lush walking trails weave between streets, connecting homes, bulk billing medical clinics and milk bars that are havens for loitering teens in this cultural conundrum.

At Meadow Heights shopping centre, teenagers with lowered caps are swooping on fish and chips like famished seagulls. Ali passes them and Mum’s crumbled shopping list waves before him like a hand beckoning us towards the entrance.

Abla, I hope Zara teyze doesn’t want sucuk,” he says, trying to decode Mum’s Turkish words scrawled on the back of a white envelope. “Coz it stinks!”

He hands me the shopping list and her scribbled fragments pulse in my palm like a big heart. “Sorry…” I try hard to suppress a smile. Sucuk is at the top of Mum’s list, underlined twice. The Turkish salami is a minced meat concoction that lures you with its delicious spices and once devoured, burns a hot trail of indigestion down to your belly, leaving you parched for the rest of the day. To Mum and Aunt Nez it’s a small price to pay for this delicacy that they cook, toast, fry, barbecue, or eat raw in more than 10 dishes.   

“Yuck,” he mumbles, “they are gonna burp garlic all the time.”

A few women are crowding the shopping centre entrance, their hands waving in excitement, as if telling a story of their own. I ignore their nosy stares and walk inside the heart of Meadow Heights, this haven for homesick Turks. The smell of simit, a bagel like roll drenched in sesame seeds, is strong and Ali tracks the scent to the bakery. I pay for two, and Ali wears the simit on his wrist.

“It’s like that lolly bracelet but bread.”

I laugh as he takes a bite from his simit bangle, eyes closed. This is how simple it is, to savour a moment, to capture it with all senses. In another place, kids his age are balancing wooden trays of simit on their heads with the weight of their future, weaving in and out of neighbourhoods, trying to find a tomorrow in the dusty streets of Turkey.