Scent of a woman

It's September again and that means my mom is coming to visit us. Every year, about this time she packs her bags and leaves her small studio apartment in northern California, where she enjoys living in the warmer weather and in a large Iranian community among friends and relatives.

Back in 1992, when I was in graduate school and my son was about 4-years old, my parents moved to my college town and rented an apartment in the same complex that I was residing in. This was so that they could live near us and also help with raising my son. My mom, who we refer to as Maman Joun, meaning “dear mother”, was more than eager to help out in taking care of my son, Shahin. His name by the way means “hawk” in Farsi.

My parents' apartment was simple yet very comfortable, cozy, and warm, and as was the case back in Iran, the aroma of delicious dishes permeating out of her kitchen window was a constant. My mom not only fed me and my son on a regular basis, but she seemed to be feeding the whole complex with her wonderful cooking.

I had been living in that apartment for a year and I barely knew my next door neighbor. Somehow though, my mom managed to know just about everyone within just a few short weeks and the most amazing thing was that she hardly spoke any English.

Yet she had constant visitors from the complex, who brought her flowers and candy, ate my mom's cooking and shared their life stories with her. You see, in my culture, you never turn anyone away who comes to your door, whether they are just there to socialize or to ask for your help. I guess, what many of these lonely souls really needed was an empathetic listener who showed some respect and kindness. My mom then had become the mom for many in the complex.

Funny thing was that, the door to door evangelists had become her usual visitors for a while, mistaking her hospitality for being interested in salvation through religion. What they failed to understand was, that my mom had put affection and kindness above all else and had reached salvation already. After a while, they stopped coming to visit her, but everyone else continued on.

Back then, we had a routine. In the mornings, I would drop off my son at my parents apartment, where he would get fed his breakfast at the same time as my dad. Then my dad and Shahin would compete for the remote to the TV. My dad, as usual, wanted to watch CNN or WWF, and Shahin wanted to watch the Nickelodian. And as usual, my mom would grab the remote and give it to Shahin, while my dad grumbled — just a little.

Then at about 10 every morning, my mom and Shahin would walk over to the campus, sit in a corner and watch the hustle and bustle of campus life. Sometimes, I would spot them on my way to a class or out of a class, and watch this two very sweet and cute people talking, playing and eating snacks.

Somehow my mom managed to carry all kinds of snacks in her purse, and no matter what Shahin would have asked for, like a jeannie, she could make it appear out of her magical purse.

Later around 12:30, I would go back to my parent's apartment, to find a table full of amazing dishes prepared for our lunch. Each time, as I walked into their apartment, the wonderful intoxicating smells took me back to the good old days when I was a kid in Iran with no worries in the world.

After lunch, it was time for my son's nap, so I would take him to the bedroom and read him a book before I had to take off for my 2:00 O'clock class. I remember, laying down reading one of The Little Critter or Dr. Zuess books to my son, with a full belly, and feeling really cozy and content. Couple of hours later, I would wake up and realize that I had missed my 2 o'clock class. Again.

Being upset and ready to accuse someone else for my own fault, I would ask Maman Joun why did she let me sleep and miss my class? And while she was peeling an orange she would respond, “That's ok Shahrokh, you two looked so sweet sleeping together. I didn't have the heart to wake you up. Here have some orange.”

Well, I learned not to take any early afternoon classes the following quarters.

Once I was done with graduate school, my parents went to live near my sister. It was not their choice, but we figured that now that I was done with school, I probably had to move around to find a decent job. And besides my sister was a doctor and was better qualified to take care of our parents at these late stages of their lives.

My dad has passed on since then but my mom is still going on strong and determined to see Shahin get married and have kids. I really hope that eventually my grandchildren get to see their great grandma.

It is September again, and my mother is coming. Finally, my home is going to smell like Iran, and maybe now, I'll get to know my neighbors.

Shahrokh Nikfar's The Persian Hour is aired on KYRS FM 95.3 in Spokane, Washington. The show is broadcasted live each Saturday from 12:00 to 1:00 pm and you can catch it on the net at The program's goals are: to promote education and understanding of Iranian culture and to provide diverse cultural entertainment. This program will usually consist of Iranian music and poetry, commentaries and story telling, interviews with people who have lived in or visited Iran, and on occasion sharing of some favorite recipes or introduction of a new book or a movie.

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