This is a true story. I have changed minor details, have omitted events directly irrelevant to the spirit of the story, and have given fictitious names to the characters.
In a quiet middle-class suburb of Tehran in 1975, three friends attended a co-ed middle school. Amir, Maryam, and Morteza were 13. Inseparable at school and after school, the three friends were known as “The Three Musketeers,” creating havoc at school, playing games and sports together, and hanging out in nearby shops and eateries. Maryam was a beautiful tomboy, with long auburn hair and freckles, Amir a lanky, blue-eyed terror, and Morteza was the dark and mysterious bookworm whose attraction to the other two nobody understood.
Seventh grade passed quickly with minor reprimands from school authorities and parents and more laughter than the group would experience in the years to come. In the sleepy unaware state the whole nation seemed to exist, life was full of joy and happiness for the unruly group. Summer of 1976 passed in a blur and the three friends united again in Eighth grade. A few months into the school year, on the eve of Yalda, the Winter Solstice, near the water fountain (abkhori) at school, Amir confessed his love for Maryam. Maryam, ever the playful soul, laughed and replied, "basheh," (O.K.)! In the coming weeks, Amir’s moments of adolescent love and excitement, however, took a backseat to his concerns over his mother’s health. She had been diagnosed with cancer. During the 1977 school year, Amir’s mother passed away, leaving the 15-year old boy bereft and quiet. His two friends tried endlessly to console him, to no avail.
The following year saw the three friends’ separation. Maryam was sent to an all-girls’ high school, Amir was sent to attend high school in the US, and Morteza was enrolled in a boarding school in the UK. Just like that, the three were separated to fend for themselves in a world devoid of the easy camaraderie and friendship they had found so essential to their happiness. Though Morteza and Amir stayed in touch, Maryam lost contact with the two friends. Maryam’s parents took her and her older sister on a trip to US in the summer of 1978, and as they watched demonstrations on Tehran streets on American television, left her to attend high school there. A Revolution happed in Iran.
After the Revolution, Maryam returned to Iran in 1980 to prepare for her university entrance exam (konkoor), but faced the “Cultural Revolution” which would have universities shut down for several years. A few years later she got married and went on to have two children. Her marriage was fraught with problems and unhappiness. In 2000, after moving back and forth between US and Iran several times, she and her husband were divorced, and she moved to US with her two children.*
Amir did return in the summer of 1980, looking for Maryam, but was unable to find the new home to which her parents had moved. His good friend, Morteza, still attending university in UK, wrote him letters in which he expressed hope that Amir would find Maryam some day and start his life with her. Amir continued his education in the US, and was sad to hear a few years later that Maryam had married and had her own family now. In the years to come, Amir, too, got married and had two children. His marriage was not a happy one either, full of arguments, unhappiness, and feelings of loneliness for him. He and his wife finally went their separate ways in 2000.*
After his divorce, Amir was immersed in memories of his childhood and his first love again. Thoughts of "what if?" and "where is she now?" constantly haunted him. A few days before Yalda in 2001, just like all the other Yalda's before that, he was overwhelmed with nostalgia and thoughts about Iran, his family, and Maryam.
Maryam’s daughter, Tara, was preparing for college in 2001. On a lazy Sunday morning, she and her brother were doing their homework and Maryam was ironing. Their television was set on the Iranian program and they were absent-mindedly “listening” to the program when on a commercial break, an advertisement for an Iranian business appeared. When the announcer said: “……under Mr. Amir Azimpoor’s management…,” Maryam looked up and on the TV screen, there was Amir’s face, his blue eyes and his face, older, more settled, with graying hair, but still the same, was looking at her. Catching her breath, she said casually to her daughter, “That is my old classmate, Amir.”
Tara quickly wrote the number down in her open notebook, and suggested her mother call her old classmate and invite him and some of her other old classmates in the area to their traditional Yalda celebration the following weekend. It took all Maryam’s might to speak in a normal tone, telling Tara that this wasn’t such a good idea.
The vivacious Tara , however, had a mind of her own. Amid her mother’s protests, she picked up the phone, punched in the numbers just mentioned on TV, asked to talk to Mr. Azimpoor, and once he came online, she handed the telephone to her mother. Maryam took the phone and said: “Hi, I just saw your commercial on TV, and I am wondering whether you were a classmate of mine in middle school.” There was a silence on the other end of the line. Amir then said: “Yes, Maryam Khanoom. I was your classmate, and I have waited all my life for this phone call. I knew you would call me someday.”
Amir and Maryam met for the first time for a cup of coffee. They had so much to tell each other, where they had been, what they had done, their losses and failures, their triumphs and joys, their children and their careers, and of course, their old friends.
As the months went by, they started meeting each other regularly, talking, talking, and talking, trying to make up for all the lost years. They called Morteza on the phone one time. Morteza still remembered how in that school yard with hundreds of students in it, whenever he asked Amir where Maryam was, he could point her out to him, as though her movements were somehow followed by the most exact instruments inside Amir's heart and mind. He could also remember his fateful words of patience and encouragement to Amir, the ones about his knowing that he and Maryam would be together someday. After talking to Maryam, when Amir took the phone to talk to Morteza, who was in shock for learning that his old classmates were side by side of each other and calling him, Morteza asked Amir if he and Maryam were going to get married. Amir replied: "Maybe someday."
Six months later, Amir told Tara that he wanted to take her mother out on "a proper date." In her young innocence, Tara simply asked Amir to be nice to her mother, as she had been through a lot. Now Amir and Maryam were inseparable, in love again, and managing their independent lives. Years of separation, and their painful failures in their first marriages, however, had left many wounds and scars on their souls; scars that only time and love could heal. They persisted and persevered as occasionally one of those old wounds would open up and would have one or both of them in agony, doubt, and pain. Their love needed time to spread its roots and to heal those wounds. Last year they decided to get married this year, still waiting to be sure, as in their adult lives they both knew there was no more time for mistakes.
This year they are finally sure. They have a wedding planned, with an appropriate date and occasion--Yalda, the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, an occasion which has meaning and significance to them both, as it has touched their lives irreversibly a few times. Yalda, with all its sweet and sad memories spanning three decades, is finally bringing them together for a union and a celebration long overdue. The longest night of the year, finally closing some of the longest time two people can wait for each other.
Is there a happier thing to witness than two people's adult love, respect, and trust for and in each other? For me, there isn't. I will put on my dancing shoes and go celebrate one of the sweetest love stories I have ever known. I am going to a wedding this Yalda.
* (I omitted so much about those marriages here. Those details are not pivotal to my story. This story is not about those sad failures and their ensuing losses. I hope in telling a short version of those separations, I don't appear insensitive or dismissive of the importance of those events. My story, however, is about something else, and these points are only made to portray the sequence of events, hence their summary descriptions.)