Well I knew my son was going to ask the question one day, but I was expecting it when he was maybe 10 or 12. Definitely not 5.
We were out having a hamburger together and there was a beautiful picture of a Greek island on the wall. Roshan looked at the picture and said he loved it and he wished he could go there. I started telling him about shomal and the Caspian Sea. I told him how warm the water is (as opposed to the freezing Pacific ocean waters he loves playing in so much, shivering or not) . I told him about the trees and the colors (what about them?) and the houses (what about them?). About how I used to swim all day and how beautiful it was.
He was listening with his big brown eyes getting even bigger and I could see him really getting absorbed. Then he asked the question: “If it was so great why did you and baba leave?”
I was not ready for this. I had imagined myself explaining this to a teen-aged Roshan. Telling him about the revolution and how we had wanted democracy and justice but how things had gone in a different direction than what we had imagined; how we had to leave behind all we had loved because we did not feel safe. But how can you explain this to a 5-year-old who has catsup on his chin and is barely tall enough to sit at this restaurant table?
“Were you really poor? Did you wear torn clothes?” he asked. Apparently he was trying to help me along with some good reasons for leaving behind that paradise. That did it. I did not want my son to think that his parents had left for money. So I said : “We left because we could not do what we wanted. We could not read what we wanted, could not say what we wanted and could not wear what we wanted.” I knew this was really over-simplifying it but I thought it should do for now. And it did. He said he understood and went on talking about other things.
About a month later, I was helping him dress up in the morning. It was supposed to be an extremely hot day according to the weather forecasts. Roshan wanted to put on his favorite jeans and long-sleeve shirt. I told him that he should wear shorts and a T-shirt. He refused. I insisted several times : “Mipazi maamaan joon.” (You're going to get really hot). Then He looked at me and said: “You left Iran because they would not let you wear what you wanted and now you are not letting me wear what I want. What am I supposed to do, leave?!”
Well that day Roshan got to wear what he wanted and of course he told me that evening that he had been very hot and uncomfortable all day and wished he had put on his shorts. And I got to walk with a big smile all day telling myself: “Bilaa dig bilaa choghondar!” (like mother like son!).