The knights of the rectangular table
Grandfather's Friday meetings
By Tara Ebrahimi
August 14, 2001
In a world of dying traditions and faltering morals, one takes great
comfort in witnessing something that has taken place every week for the
past half-century. Something that has remained untouched and untainted
in this ever-changing world.
Although these men now have wrinkles, although they now have grandchildren,
although their wives now sit beside them at the table, the meetings at the
rectangular table are still the same as they always were.
My grandfather always reserved his Fridays for anyone who wanted to come
and have a conversation with him. He was a very respected man and
his friends were all honored to come to his apartment for lunch and tea
and a two-hour talk.
In keeping with a Persian woman's duties, my grandmother always cooked
fantastic meals for these gentlemen. They would arrive one by in the
early afternoon, some gripping canes, others walking with two-inch steps.
They immediately walked over to my grandfather, who sat at the head of
a rectangular table, and kissed him on either side of his cheeks.
If he could, he would have gotten out of his seat to greet them.
Then they would sit down at the table, first filling up the seats closest
to my grandfather. The men exchanged the usual salutations.
When everyone had arrived, the meal would b eserved and conversation would
be kept to a minimum so that each man could properly savor the delicious
Then, soon after lunch, my grandmother would bring out tea for the men.
They all drank their tea the same way, the traditional way. They poured
the tea into the saucer, waited for it to cool, put a sugar cube in their
mouth, then sipped the tea from the saucer. The sugar cube soaked up
the tea, and the sweet cube would then slowly dissolve onto their tongue.
This was no doubt one reason why all of the men at the table were now wearing
During tea, conversation began. These men talked about everything
and anything. Often, my grandfather would recite one of the millions
of poems he knew off the top ofhis head.
I loved watching him do this. Someone would say something that
would trigger his brain to remember a poem. He just began the recitation,
no introduction, no warning that he was about to begin. It always
caught everyone's attention. He raised his voice, and his words were
more drawn out. I never understood the poems because they were in old
Farsi, but it did not matter because I was sure the words were not half
as beautiful as the way he spoke them.
Other times, the men spoke of the latest politics in Iran or even sometimes
the goings on in America. They would talk about the past, their childhood,
their days as young men. They reminisced about old friends or old
Sometimes they spoke about a friend who had died. I always left
the room when this subject came up. It reminded me, and them, that
although these men's minds were virile and still as sharp as ever, their
bodies were becoming frail and soon they would turn to dust. I did
not want to hear about death, especially when they spoke of it so casually.
I guess they had just accepted that it was near.
After about two or three hours, the men would get tired, not of speaking,
not of each other, but physically tired and they would leave one by one
just as they had arrived. Then my grandfather would slowly make his
trek to his bedroom for a nap.
I would sit and ponder about the day's discussions and pray that next
week's Friday meeting would be as interesting and rich as this week's.
It always was.