2 / Part
October 20, 2004
Molly Maids: Naneh Youssef, va Ashraf Khanoom.
Do you have Molly Maids? They are a home custodial service organization,
like what we had in Iran 40-50 years ago except that instead of
Esmeralda, Yolanda, and Josephine, we had Naneh Youssef, Ashraf,
va Belgheis Khanoom.
Unlike Yolanda, Naneh didn't drive. She took two buses
to our house! Neither did she have a crew of 3-4 others, all arriving
in a minivan. Naneh didn't even have a phone. If my mom forgot
to make advance arrangements with her to help out for a party,
generally outside of her regularly scheduled Wednesday visits,
we would call her neighbor, Esmat.
Esmat Khanoom, who had a phone, managed Naneh's schedule. I
suspect she handled a few others like Naneh. My mom, like all other
Naneh's clients, always sent a little something every week
for Esmat Khanoom's dispatching services.
Naneh and Esmat Un-Incorporated were more reliable than the American
Social Security, less taxes than the IRS, and more effective than
As kids, when my sisters and I were making up scary stories and
characters, alongside LooLoo KhorKhoreh va Derakoola, va Jenn,
va Aghaye Ex, Naneh was a regular. Her skinny "Abeleh-roo" [smallpox]
face, with a scary bad-witch-of-Wizard-of-Oz-like laughter and
high pitched screechy voice, was topped with a set of Dandoon
Arieh dentures that she would regularly take out and snap them
at us for absolutely no apparent reason, which scared the living
out of us, making her laugh.
My younger sister would always run to warn us: "Okh
okh - Naneh oomad" [Uh oh - Naneh is coming] . We would hide until
we hear my mom talking to her, which was a relief that for instance
she did not eat our mom, after
which we would start cautiously to come out.
In all fairness, she did help more passionately than Esmeralda.
I think she felt more obligated and worked with more authority,
not in a back breaking sense, it was light work, you know,
chores that my mom "hoelasho nadasht" and did not feel patient
enough doing it.
Naneh cleaned the bathrooms, Jaroo'ed [vacuumed] the house, did
our laundry, washed the dishes, Ootu'ed [Ironed ] our clothes,
cooked. I still think my mom let Naneh cook to piss off my dad,
refused to eat Naneh's food -- "Inn vagheAnn mess
le estefragh e bach-chas" [this looks like a kid has puked
on it], he would say.
Naneh loved our parties, probably because she would gobble down
a few large glasses of my dad's Vodka-lime pretending it
was Sharbat e' AbLimoo [lemonade]. She was not just tipsy,
but drunk by the time the guests were arriving. When I told her,
my mom said: "Na pesaram, khastass [No my son, she's
Ashraf Khanoom was a Mostakhdem [Maid] for an older couple
down the street. They were diabetic. She
helped other families in the neighborhood to earn extra cash. About
the same age as Naneh, but her total opposite.
Naneh was a motor mouth and would talk non-stop. Ashraf Khanoom
hardly ever spoke. Naneh was shorter, Ashraf Khanoom was
pretty tall. Naneh was very white and Ashraf Khanoom was practically
black. Naneh only looked scary, but truthfully all of us kids were
afraid of Ashraf Khanoom.
Naneh always laughed at her own non-sense stories, while Ashraf
Khanoom never did. She reminded me of Barbara Walters
skin has become so tight after repeated facelifts that she can
no longer laugh. She always
pulled up her chador around her legs and tied it behind her neck.
her body and her hair, yet amazingly, it did not get in her way
of doing her chores. Remember the Ghamar Khanoom the sitcom? Like
Ashraf Khanoom would carry two 40-50 liter HUGE barrels of kerosene,
the ones those painful skinny ring handles, from the Naftee to
her house, every day. It always reminded me of Bahram e Goor va
Kanizak who carried a cow to the top of the stairs on her shoulders
-- remember that
story? (Ask me and I will send it to you. It is
one of my favorites).
Well, we inherited Naneh's services from my grandmother
and when we moved to Amirieh, Naneh's services moved with
us, more efficiently forwarded than our phone or postal mail. We
couldn't just fire Naneh when we moved. No one ever fires
PMMs -- Persian Molly Maids -- are life long contracts, consistent
with our Persian and
Zoroastrian class system. PMMs become sort of members of the family,
of lower grade of course. They receive all the hand me downs or
other extras, including left over fresh food after parties during
which they helped.
My mom had told the neighbors that Naneh was my dad's
cousin to justify why we did not utilize Ashraf Khanoom's services.
[My dad always complained to my mom: "Couldn't you find someone
better looking to make my cousin? Why didn't you say she is your
own cousin?"] But she did not exactly succeed. This territorial
issue between Naneh and Ashraf Khanoom did spill throughout the
like being fans of opposing football teams, or like Republicans
and Democrats, or Islamists and Shahists: enemies for
Anyway, we were cursed for life for supporting the opposing tea.
Do you know much about dogs and their AlphaMale characteristics?
Ashraf Khanoom would say hi only to my dad, and would never acknowledge
my mom, or the rest of us. Only my dad, her cousin! Yes ... We
were the victims of the clash of the PMMs.
My mom and Khanoom Esfahani, our immediate neighbor to the left,
and Khanoom HezarKhani, our neighbor across the alley, would never
mingle and would reluctantly say hi to each other, because of it.
We used to call Khanoom HezarKhani "Khanoom e HezaarLaayee [Thousand
layers], when we grew older and learned to curse, we called
her Khanoom Hezaar Kaani [Mrs. Thousand Asses].
My mom would always refer to Khanoom Esfahani
as "Khanoom Gooz" [Mrs. Fart].
deeply afraid of Ashraf Khanoom. I always thought she
was going to beat me up for no reason at all, or kill
me, and drain my oil! I had therefore decided to avoid
her, for eternity, at all costs, which was not easy.
I was the boy in my family and boys in my neighborhood
(except for Amir AmirKhani) helped in doing the daily shopping.
My dad bought meat and bags of rice. I bought the daily
bread, vegetables and dairy products such
as yogurt, butter, and cheese.
Although I had modified my route many times, I was
bound to bump into Ashraf Khanoom -- and I frequently
did. When buying
bread, I escaped running into her in the mornings by buying Noon
Barbari or Noon Taftoon for breakfast. But I could not
her at noon or in the evenings at the Sangaki bakery.
Well, enough of Naneh and Ashraf Khanoom. Stay tuned
for Jaffar Harroom-zadeh next.
>>> Part 2