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Part 23
New York, Monday March 28

4:45 a.m.
Yesterday I was noticing the change in my mom. Has she become a different person? Or is it just that I never really knew her? It is funny that kids assume they know their parents like the back of their hand. They forget that before their birth, their mom or dad have already lived a lifetime full of memories: happiness and sadness, love and disputes, births and deaths. It is so hard to imagine my mAmAn joon as a little girl in pigtails sitting on the front steps of her house in Tehran, in her little poodle skirt and sun hat. The only thing I recognize in those old yellowed pictures is the "tokhss" expression in her eyes. The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Ever since I can remember, mAmAn has been the loud "sholough" one in the family. She bosses everyone around, never expresses herself in less than a half-screaming voice, makes her opinions known whether she has been asked or not. She is our little dictator. The energy that propels her is grounded in an unshakable feeling of righteousness, the invincible certainty that she knows best and she has a duty to guide others around her to fulfill their own potential. She is perhaps the strictest judge when it comes to herself.

Always perfectly coiffed, manicured, and made-up, she believes work, whether in or outside the house, should never be obstacles to your primary duty to present yourself to the world in the neatest and most pleasant fashion possible. She cannot understand if I tell her I have had no time to paint my nails, or get a haircut, or put on some lipstick. She keeps buying me clothes even at 26! Even though our tastes could not be more different!

Twice I have caught her on the verge of throwing out my old muddy Nikes, the most comfortable pair of shoes I own. I always use them when I go on long walks through Central Park. When I made the mistake of wearing my ancient torn NYU sweatshirt to Mount Vernon, I discovered the next day that it had been put in the washer and ruined by bleach. An accident, my mother claimed, but I have never known my mother to make mistakes. You just have to bare it and grin. MAmAn is just mAmAn, I tell myself. She will never change.

As I watched her today in bAbA's hospital room, holding his hand, and whispering to him, I had to re-think that notion. She did seem different to me though maybe to the outside world, she has remained the same. On the surface, a proper lime green suit and designer handbag, her hair not a single strand out of place, give the world the impression that nothing out of the ordinary is happening in her life.

But I, unlike the people outside our family, have noticed little facts about her that belie her outer calm and composure: The fact that this is the third day in the row she has been wearing that lime green suit, the fact that she has forgotten the emerald earrings and bracelet which she normally accessorizes with this outfit, the fact that inside that designer bag, she has forgotten to drop her house keys and driving license. Instead you can find inside 2 half-used packs of kleenexes used to wipe away her tears, and a crumpled piece of paper on which she has written, in her phonetic version of English, the instructions that the doctor has given her to make my father's ordeal as comfortable as possible.

I guess I have always thought of her as my mAmAn. I have forgotten that before me, way way before me, she was Mitra, bAbA was Houshang, and they decided that it would be just the two of them against the world. Forever.

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