From the cradle to the grave...
Academic doors here are
open, regardless of age
July 30, 2004
Last June, once again I attended the
Santa Barbara Writer's Conference. An entire week in the company
of some of the best writers, I
felt as if I had died and gone to heaven! My own education having
been in Iran and later England lacked the same campus experience
as my children's colleges here. But at Westmont College, we were
the kids who slept on an uncomfortable cot, ate cafeteria food,
attended class and bonded.
By now, I have many friends there. The minute I
walked into registration they were calling out, "There's Zoe!" Yes,
Zoe had returned for more workshops, more experience, and a lot
She was back to listen to icons of literature such as Neil Simon,
Ray Bradbury and Christopher Buckley, to name a few. She would
work nonstop, attend 'pirate workshops' till dawn, sleep three
hours a night--and regret having to do so.
The best part of the conference was living the dream.
Disregarding our birth certificates, we make friends of all ages
and all walks
of life. We have something in common: the love of art and the craft
of writing. By the end of the week, I was able to form my sentences
with ease and remembered how it had felt when as a child I was
promoted to second grade. Remember that line? "In first grade
we learned reading and writing and a little math!"
In my new environment-which after thirty years it
isn't so new -- I am beginning to understand what Saadi had tried
to tell me in
primary school: "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave!" Now
closer to the grave than the cradle, I'm beginning to realize what
a great advice that is. We come from a culture that closes the
doors too quickly. Once we're done with school, we're done. I can't
remember any of my older relatives going back to school--except
if they had to study the language of whatever country they were
How admirable it is that academic doors here are
open, regardless of age. As a member of our local floral association,
attended a class where the teacher was a lady in her eighties
AND in a wheel chair. I remembered my grandmother who at that age
preparing answers for her eternal questioning: the admittance
test to Heaven! Had the flower arrangement teacher been Iranian,
too, would stay home waiting for 'the questioner' to arrive any
minute. I want to shout to the aging and the aged: There's
a life out there. Who cares if you flunk the test?
I went to Marshall's
the other day to pick up socks for my son. Two older Iranian
ladies, using their shopping cart to support
their long walk, had filled the cart to the brim with merchandise.
It was a familiar scene. We love spending money on clothes.
We love bargains and I have to yet go to one of these discount
and not bump into my fellow countrymen. But I never meet
them in the extension classes at the university or even the few
I take. Writer's conference? Forget that! We have too much
fun shopping, eating and socializing. Besides, who needs to
more? And, anyway, aren't we too old for school?
Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a freelance
poet and artist. She lives in San Diego, California.