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A glass of Iran
The power of a fistful of soil in northern Virginia

By Jahanshah Javid
March 21, 2001
The Iranian

My daughter Mahdiyeh woke me up at 7 in the morning, an hour an a half before saal tahveel. I sat behind the computer and checked my email. There were a dozen or so Noruz ecards from friends and total strangers. Some of them were not emailed to me personally, but to a whole group of people. I know it's practical, but...

I searched for Aref's email. I found it but there was no home address. He had invited some friends over for a Noruz breakfast. I really wanted to go, but I didn't even have his phone number. What to do... what to do...

It was 8 o'clock.

Mahdiyeh shouted from the bathroom: "When are we leaving?"

"We aren't. Aref didn't give his address and I don't have his phone number."

Mahdiyeh came into my room and just stood there with that you-messed-up-again look.

"What can I do?" I threw my shoulders up. "I thought he had sent his address with his email."

She leaves the room without saying anything.

I call Nina.

"Hi... I'm sorry. Did I wake you up?"

"No. I had set the clock for 7:30..."

"Did it go off?"


"And you went back to bed."

"Yeah..." She laughed.

"Mahdiyeh and I were going to go to Aref's house for a Noruz breakfast. But I don't know where he lives and I don't have his phone number. Do you want to go and have breakfast with us?"

"Let's go to Aref's place. I know where it is."

We picked up Nina from her house and drove towards Reston, here in northern Virginia. I guess we were still in the Washington DC metropolitan area. I turned on the radio. It was the Howard Stern show. Not a good idea.

"Put on some Iranian music," Nina said.

"We don't have any Iranian music in the car."

"Yes we do," Mahdiyeh said. She pulled out a tape of really bad Iranian songs.

"That's not a good tape," I insisted.

At the end of Reston Parkway, I thought it was almost time.

"We have a minute and a half to Noruz."

"Your watch is slow. It's already 8:31," Mahdiyeh said.

"Oh, okay. We have about 30 seconds... Eid-e shomaa mobaarak!"

I grabbed Nina and Mahdiyeh's hands and kissed them as I continued driving.

We got to Aref's house ten minutes later. There were seven or eight people there. I knew most of them. I recognized Sonya, but I couldn't remember her name. This has happened so many times. I was embarrassed.

"I'm really sorry... I can't remember your name."

"Sonya." She smiled.

And there was Goli and her mother. I hadn't seen them in ages. Goli said she had been working really hard. I totally believed her. She loves her job. She couldn't believe we were moving back to San Francisco in a couple of weeks. I was reminded, again, how many good people I'll miss.

Everyone was in a good mood. Including myself. I get really tense in parties. I usually want to go home early. But I felt relatively sociable.

Aref had prepared a wonderful Noruz breakfast spread, with a delicious omlet, hot barbari bread, cheese and sabzi, and other goodies. He was walking around with a plate-full of cream and some sort of spunge cake bread (something like noon-o-sarshir, I think).

We hung around and chatted for an hour or so. I don't remember why this subject came up, but we talked a lot about blood types. Apparently O blood types (I'm O+) go back to the earliest humans and AB types (or B types? I can't remember) are just a thousand years old.

As the guests got ready to leave (some were going back to work, some had taken the day off), we took pictures by the haft-seen.

I noticed a large glass with a fistful of dirt on the haft-seen spread.

"What's this?"

"It's Iranian soil!" Aref said enthusiastically. "I asked my mom to bring it from Iran."

"Yes, it's from the foothills," Aref's mom confirmed. Did she say the soil was from the Alborz mountains? I can't remember.

I took the glass and stared at it. There was only some grayish brown soil with a dark stone in the middle. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

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