A few weeks after my daughter left for college, I finally forced myself to go through her room to sort things out and pack up stuff she had left behind. I missed not having her around, even though I was happy to see her all grown up and in college.
As I went through drawers, shelves and closets it was very difficult deciding what to keep. Almost everything I touched reminded me of something we had done in the past. Books I read to her, sport trophies she brought home with pride, toys she liked and games we played, ribbons and certificates I had forgotten about!
I was going through a box of toys when I came across a toy and remembered my own childhood and games that we played. As children, we did not have so many toys, but almost everything we saw around us, a few sticks; bottle caps; stones; rope; sturdy tree brunches; ponds and even our rooftops served us well in our games.
A pleated navy blue skirt, white starched shirt, and best of all, a blue folding hat, made up our uniforms. We were the first group of students from elementary schools to join the newly established “” — the Iranian equivalent of the Red Cross for girls.
Our uniforms with the folding hat (malvani) were a new phenomenon. So was as our mission. We were to form a group and do community service, visit hospitals and orphanages, provide school supply packages for needy students and learn to give a helping hand to those in need. Also we were part of an international organization and would be assigned a sister group to contact and exchange ideas and information.
We met once a week after school to plan our activities and go on visits. Every other week we visited local hospitals and took flowers and candy. We came to school with our white shirts, pleated blue skirts and our great-looking hats. We beamed with pride all day as we walked around in our uniforms, waiting for the time to leave for our visits.
A few months after our group was formed, we were told that our sister group is in America and we would be exchanging packages with them to introduce our countries and learn about each other.
After a series of long deliberations, we settled on dates, dried apricot, khoroos ghandi, a wooden comb and khoroos neshan chewing gum. We also wrote our names in Persian and English on the back of map of Iran and included a family picture in our packages. Each box was wrapped, decorated and sent out with anticipation of boxes that we would receive later!
Just before the end of the school year, our packages from America arrived. Everyone was so excited. We did not wait to take our boxes home and opened them at school. But all the anticipation and excitement was gone as we looked in our packages: Tooth brush and toothpaste, small note pad, two pencils, and in a separate envelope, a small bouncy ball and a few five-pronged shapes.
No one knew what the light metal shapes were for and the ball was too small to be of much use. We could not figure out if it was an educational game or a toy? Our group leaders' effort in finding out the name or instructions was not successful. After months of anticipation everyone was disappointed. Nothing to play, eat, show off or brag about in our packages from America!
My daughter was 7-years old when I finally discovered the game in our packages. She came home from a birthday party with a goodie bag and asked me to play “Jack” with her. It had taken me over 40 years to find out that the bouncy ball and the five-pronged pieces in our package was the fancy version of the game we called “yeghol doghol”.
xAle (pronounced khaa-leh, maternal aunt in Persian) is an old timer who grew up in Iran when words such as miraab, maayeh khamir, aab-anbaar and haavan were part of daily life. Through stories and remembrances of old days, she will be sharing with us part of our past.