There were three things I loved to do growing up in Iran: Sheytoonee, Sheytoonee, and more Sheytoonee!
If anyone ever said anything about me, it was something like: “Eeen Bahram e Mansooreh khanoom kheili BachCheh ye MoeAddaby ye (Ya Kheili Ba HooShe) — Vally MASHALLLLLAAAAAHHHH, Kheili Sheytoon e” [ Bahram, Mansooreh's son, is very polite (or very smart), but he is, GOD FORBID, very naughty or tricky]
How sarcastically they said it or meant that MashaLlah always reminds me of a joke I heard long ago about a poor old man who in his torn old clothes and bare feet, painstakingly climbs to the top of a hill, pulls out his stale rotten bread and starts eating it. When he finishes, he looks up the heavens and prays “Khoda ya, ShokRet” [Thank you God].
A group of rich brats who had just arrived in their luxury SUV's, having champagne and caviar, witnessed this — One of them calls to the old man and comments: “Pedar, Az een Badtar Chee MeeShe? Az Khoda TashShakor ham MiKonee?!!” [Old man, what can be worse than your condition/predicament? Why bother thanking God for your pathetic poverty?] . The old man replies: “Een TashShakor e mann az Sad Ta FohSh e Khar Madar ham barash Bad Tareh!” [My sarcastic gratitude, thanking him, is worse than any profanity!]
Well … Their “Mashalllah”s was like that!
I was always either in my hiding place, behind the living room “moble” [Sofa] doing something I shouldn't be doing, or sneaking behind a door, under a bed, or inside a closet waiting for my next un-expecting victim to arrive and scare the beejeezus out of them.
One fringe benefit of hiding, for as long and as patiently as I practiced it, was the knowledge that came with eavesdropping on conversations, which in most cases I wasn't even supposed to be listening to. Aside from catching mom and dad, multiple of times, I knew most of our family secrets, and secrets others told my parents because I was always there listening. I was the inter and intra secret connection.
I didn't know what “BavaSeer” was [hemorrhoids], but I knew Aghaye Akhavan had them, or, what Koortaj was [Abortion] but Iftikhar Khanoom got one. I didn't know what Kappoot was, but my uncle used them when he was making out with his girlfriend at our house, and I always thought Kotex was something that only mothers used until …
Well, until one day when I was as always in our living room, behind the big “Moble” [sofa], playing with a brand new box of matches that I had found in my dad's car.
When my mother's guest and her daughters arrived, I simply didn't have enough time to get out — I just stayed where I was, lighting up my matches (we will talk about the daughters when I become 12-13. I am only 6 in this story!)
A few cups of tea and some SheeReeNee Tazeh later [fresh pastry], I found out that my older sister was going through an early puberty and was getting her period/menstruation. I had no idea what any of that meant I just knew it had something to do with my mom's Kotex, and was related to “Jaye Bad” [the private parts].
I immediately consulted with my assistant, my younger sister Afsaneh, also my very first partner in crime – we decided that we needed to get to the bottom of this. At 6 I didn't know, and at 5, she had neither heard, nor seen … We had to find out!
It was a no brainer when a few days later, we found Marmar, my sister, taking an afternoon nap in the family room on the floor. Both Afsaneh and I knew what we had to do and quickly got in position and without much conversation, we went for it: we had been discussing and planning it for several days already: Ever so slowly we crawled up, ever so quietly we got right next to her, and ever so carefully and gently we pulled up Marmar's skirt – We aborted every time she seemed like she was moving or we needed to giggle until we finally reached her underwear not realizing that the suspicious atmosphere had already awakened my sneaky sister who was now pretending she was asleep trying to figure out what we were up to … The moment we touched her underwear to find out what my mom was talking about, she jumped up, roaring like a wounded lion, asking what the hell we were doing! Aahhh… Inspecting?!
She first tried to choke me — I just remembered that she was another reason why we always thought I would never make it to 18. Although she gave it up after she was 12-13, but Marmar always tried to choke us when we did something to her.
Post 12, because she was so much bigger than us, she used to sit on us, which would either completely cut off the passage of oxygen to any part of our bodies, or her weight would interfere with the lungs muscular functions, either of which had the same choking effect, compounded if we were laughing which was always the case. Bother Marmar, Chase, Sit, Laugh, Lack of oxygen, Ma aaaaaa mmmm Help! … these were the highlights.
Once I survived the choking that day, she grabbed my favorite Silver Ghost Rolls Royce Matchbox out of my hand.
Matchboxes, if you recall, were the small miniature cars that were 5 tomans each. These were colorfully painted die cast 2-3 inch replicas of popular cars, which boys absolutely loved and could play with for hours and hours. The Silver Ghost, was a rare, black and silver two tone color, with spoke rim wheels and working doors, detachable trunk, a double working hood, removable top, with a little plastic engine inside, and above all, a working steering – Before Batman and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Matchboxes arrived in the market, the Silver Ghost was the most loaded Matchbox, ever.
The Silver Ghost was a very special car, which I always carried with me because I had actually bought it twice, and it was seemingly one of those things I wasn't meant to have!
You see, I had used up my allowance buying other Matchboxes when the Silver Ghost hit the market and became available – I had to wait until the end of the month for my next allowance to buy it.
I couldn't wait that long — so, despite several warnings from my dad emphasizing that I was not allowed to buy it until I get my allowance at the beginning of the month, which was a lifetime as far as I was concerned, I borrowed the money. I went ahead and borrowed money from Marmar, that very sister who was now holding my precious Silver Ghost and delightfully bought me one. I promised to pay her back when I got my allowance or as soon as I got my Eydee (imagine, it was only summer!). But because I was not supposed to have that specific Matchbox until the beginning of the month, and because I was not supposed to borrow from my sisters, we decided to devise a plot to justify the presence of that toy car in our house, just in case mom or dad notice- what can be more justifying than to pretend that we had found it.
Where could I say that I had found this car so that my dad won't make me return it?
What would be that one place that people find the most unusual things, and a brand new Silver Ghost may very well be one of those “Things”?
The Joob — I found it in the joob! [the stream of creek like water in front of the house].
I went ahead and bought my first Silver Ghost and for a totally convincing affect, I decided to run up the alley, drop the car in the Joob, run back and wait for it to conveniently arrive in front of our house and voila …
I dropped the car and ran to the house — Waiting and waiting, for a car that never came!
After what felt like a life time, thinking that it may have gotten caught in something, I went back. Apparently, I had gone too far up the stream! I saw a couple of kids joyfully inspecting my brand new Silver Ghost which they had just found in the joob — How could I have missed these kids? One of the kids was Yousef, Khatoon Khanoom's son, my mom's helper, who was visiting that day and had brought her son along.
I could not convince these street smart kids that the car was mine — I actually hardly tried. My mom always told us to be nice with these underprivileged kids because they don't have as many toys as we did (e.g. I actually had just a few Matchboxes and that was it, I thought I qualified to be underprivileged, but I apparently had more than they did!). These kids seemed to be needing and now enjoying my Silver Ghost a lot more than I could have ever, and as much as I wanted that car, I decided not to pursue it.
Every time Khatoon Khanoom came to our house for her weekly visits, Yousef would bring his Silver Ghost and it would renew my “Dagh e Dell” [pain].
I did not get that Silver Ghost for another few months because Marmar asked for her money, which I decided not to pay because I didn't exactly get my car, and she told my parents. As a punishment, the purchase of the Silver Ghost was forbidden for another few months.
So painfully acquired, and so carefully treasured, my sister now had my second Silver Ghost which I have had for only a few weeks. Marmar wanted revenge that day — I guess girls at that age are pretty sensitive and get pretty vicious and VassVassee [ Obsessive Compulsive] — Boys at my age, I should probably say at any age, are pretty stupid about these stuff.
In any event, Marmar grabbed the car out of my hand and in one quick move, she threw it out the window into the middle yard. The middle yard?! Yep — Back then, we lived at my grandmother's house where the rooms were built all around the property, and the yard was safely at the center — What an incredible concept! It was like an atrium with trees and a Hoze [small pool] and a PaaShoor e [ gutter like drain for the pool] all around the hoze and easy access to everything else.
We witnessed the car fly out the window in a trajectory that would have landed right in the middle of the Hoze. “Khak Bar Sarree”ing my sister, Afsaneh and I ran outside and by the time we were at the Hoze, things had settled and we had no visuals of where the car had landed.
The water was not particularly clean and had those tiny red worms in it and we decided we did not want to go in it. Begging, crying, and GhahReeing, we managed to convince my mom to search the water with a broom, and to bring an Aab e Hozee the next day to empty the Hoze — The Silver Ghost, was gone.
We searched everywhere, in the trees, by the windows, in the basements, the other side and even the roof and outside in the alley and we could not find my Silver Ghost.
Although my dad forbid buying that Matchbox for yet a third time, I got the green light from my mom who promised she would work on dad — And I even knew what she meant!
Unfortunately, although I went to the store immediately, a few months had gone by and by that time, the car was already out of stock and off the market, not to be found ever again — Too bad we didn't have eBay back then!
I tell you, there is something about losing stuff — You always remember them and my precious Silver Ghost was no exception. Every time I saw something shiny or silver in that yard, I ran to it, hoping it would be my Silver Ghost.
We moved to our own house a few years later, and from there to another and many years went by and I eventually migrated to the states. Every miniature car always reminded me of my Silver Ghost.
In 1997 I went back to Iran and visited the old childhood neighborhoods. My grandma had already passed away and all the aunts and uncles had moved out of that house years earlier — My uncle had just begun tearing the old house down and was going to build a new 3-4 story house there.
The bulldozer had already taken down the exterior walls and all was left was a dried fig tree in the center, the cracked light-blue dried Hoze, and all those faded memories of childhood I had not thought about for some 30-40 years.
I saw the big steel claws digging into the ground, into that Hoze which seemed like a bird bath pool, and into that PaaShoor e which looked so tiny – picking up a hefty load of dirt, tearing those last strains connecting me to the past …
The bulldozer dumped the load a few feet from my pumping heart and moist eyes.
To my amazing surprise, rolling from the top of the pile of dirt to my feet, came my Silver Ghost … The paint was all gone, the screws were all rusted, and the plastic parts were kind of dissolved and no longer transparent, but the body was intact. In an instant, I was 6 again, standing in the middle yard, playing with my cousins and my Silver Ghost.
I didn't cry when I lost it twice — I am not sure I can explain why I am crying, finding my 5 tomanee Silver Ghost Matchbox …