Take your daughter with you to the place where you work, the school had said. Take her to see where you work so that she can see herself working some day. Girls need to see that they can become anything they want to be.
I do not want her to see where I work, Nasrin thought. I do not want her to see me sweeping up the hair after a customer leaves. I would rather tell her about Iran, about the school and my classroom and how the other teachers used to come to me for advice. I would rather tell her about that.
But the girl cried and said that all the other girls were going to go, that she would be the only girl at school that day if she didn't go, and her husband said that he would take her to the restaurant but he was the night manager after all, and the girl said she didn't want to go to the restaurant, she wanted to go to the hair salon, and Nasrin cursed the school because up until then she had felt glad and proud to be working there, but all that fell when she thought of her daughter seeing her there, and she thought of going down to the school and telling them that she would have to take her daughter to Iran in order to really do this right.
Let me explain, she would say. I was a teacher there. When I wanted the girls in my class to know that they could be anything they wanted to be, I would show them myself. I did not ask their mothers and father to do it because I did not know their mothers and fathers. I knew myself. That is what a teacher is supposed to know. She is supposed to know herself so that she has something to teach. There is math and reading and writing and history, but along the way of all of that, a teacher is supposed to know herself.
Now I am here in America, she thought. Okay. I am not a teacher. I am a hairdresser. Okay. I can do it. I can take who I am with me every day and find a place for myself there. But not with my daughter watching. Not if she sees me there without having ever seen me in Iran.
Maman, the girl said, it doesn't matter what you do. I am proud of you either way.
And Nasrin cried and thought: It was a way they taught children to speak in America, to tell their mothers that they were proud of them either way. And she thought of how her daughter would never see her where she had been most herself, where she could move with so much certainty, where she knew the ins and outs of everything - the city itself and the school and relationships and family life. She would never see her walk with the city as her background as though it was hers alone, having earned it, having earned it from another day of aiming to be exactly who she wanted to be.
She cried and the girl cried and Nasrin's husband stood in the room and felt in some distant part of his mind how it was the same crying. It was the same crying but he couldn't say that because nobody wanted to be told that their crying was anything other than their own crying. This crying isn't starting now, he wanted to tell them. It started ten years ago, when we left Iran. It is nobody's fault. It is not even the school's fault for asking. He left the room and went outside. His neighbor was collecting the mail.
It is the same crying, Nasrin's husband said.
What is? his neighbor said.
My wife and my daughter are both crying about each other, but it is the same crying.
Yes. He went back inside. They had stopped crying and gone to their rooms.
I'll take her with me to the restaurant, her husband said. I'll go in the morning and make the food orders.
He went to tell his daughter.
In the girl's room, the daughter said, Baba, why does she tell us so much about the place at night when she comes home? Why does she have so many stories about the people there? I thought she would be glad that I could finally come and see everybody there.
From the next room Nasrin heard her daughter and thought: It is not the same. It is not the same when I tell it and when you see it. When I tell it I am myself again. I am standing in front of a classroom again. It is the closest I can come to standing in front of a classroom. I can speak in Farsi and I can know that everybody understands. But if that is the issue, then I won't talk abut it. If I have to let you see it in order to tell it, then I just won't tell it.
For the next few days Nasrin did not say anything about her day at the salon when she came home in the evening. But after a week she began to feel the way she felt in the middle of the summer in Iran, when she would miss the school and the classroom and the kids very much. And she started back up again slowly, telling one funny story about a customer that day. Her husband and her daughter listened eagerly. And pretty soon she got rolling again, talking of her co-workers and Americans and all their ways, and her daughter listened and figured that even if her mother would not take her to work, at least she was taking her somewhere.
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