On a sunny afternoon in October, memory paid me a
By Golareh Safarian
May 14, 2003
What is it about a memory that taps you on the shoulder when you
least expect it and leaves you gasping for air as you struggle to
free yourself from the suffocating grip of nostalgia?
What makes the dry scent of dust take you back to the school playground
where you had your first fight with your first best friend all those
What gives the tacky lyrics of an 80's love song the power to
make you shudder as you recall your first pathetic attempt at a
French kiss in Junior High?
I don't know if it is memory's uncanny sense of timing that gives
it such an unbreakable hold over our psyche, but I for one am often
amazed by its ever increasing fortitude.
On a sunny afternoon in October, memory paid me a powerful visit.
I was lying on the couch in my parent's living room enjoying the
tranquility of solitude in an often crowded house. I was hoping
for a short, peaceful nap, but the drawn blinds were no match for
the impetuous sun that peeked through and shielded my lids from
I tried a variety of tactics to increase the chances of slumber,
but all to no avail. I fidgeted with the blinds, regulated my breathing,
tried to eliminate all thought from my brain. But sleep's dry sense
of humor kept him from making an appearance that afternoon.
Frustrated at having wasted such a rare chance at relaxation, I
got up and began to pace the room. I walked up and down the living
room rug, suddenly suffering from extreme
Finally I noticed some specks of dust on the coffee table and decided
to do some impromptu cleaning. Thirty seconds later, I had a rag
in one hand and the Pledge in the other and was dusting away with
I dusted the coffee table, the sofa, the lamps and the china cabinet
and was almost done with the frames on the mantelpiece when I found
myself staring at a picture of my late grandmother. She was smiling
at me with amazing grace.
I picked up the shiny silver frame that complemented her character
so meticulously and used my sleeve to wipe it clean. I must have
walked by that picture thousands of times throughout the years and
yet it wasn't until that afternoon that I felt myself dragged back
to when I was six years old, resting my head on her lap.
I could feel her playful fingers roaming through my hair and hear
the sound of her soothing voice mumbling a traditional lullaby.
She was trying to rock me to sleep, but I knew that if I stayed
awake long enough she would treat me to one of her magical stories.
She knew hundreds of them: tales of fairies and beasts, fishermen
and kings, sailors and nymphs. But the most amazing story which
she never told was that of her life.
The story of a nine-year-old bride who married a man 40 years
her senior. The story of a 13-year-old mother who lost her first
two sons to disease. The story of a 27-year-old wife who became
penniless because of her husband's extravagant gambling. The story
of a 39-year-old widow who worked her fingers to the bone and raised
four children without borrowing a dime from a soul.
It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that I found out about
the extraordinary life that my grandmother had led. But by then
it was too late. She had already passed away and I had missed my
chance of telling her that she was the bravest and strongest heroine
of them all.
As I stood there in front of the mantelpiece in my parents' living
room, tenacious memory had one more journey planned for me. I was
whisked back to a night in late March of 1983; a night I had spent
years trying to forget.
I wish I could say that on that night I had given my grandmother
a hug, kissed her wrinkled cheeks and told her how much I loved
her. I wish I could say that on that night I had looked into her
soulful eyes and told her how much I was going to miss her. I wish...
On that night, I did none of those things. On that night, I was
annoyed with her because she kept interrupting some useless movie
I was watching with questions about the plot. On that night, the
last words I spoke to her were "be quiet! I can't hear anything."
The following morning at 6 or so, I left Tehran for good. I never
saw my grandmother again. The foolish and arrogant young, may they
be forgiven by their betters.
On that sunny afternoon in October, when sleep never came and memory
chose a picture as its vessel, I closed my eyes and remembered an
extraordinary woman of great strength and passion whose story was
never told, but whose kindness will never be forgotten.
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