Our boys, Siavash and Kourosh, have just turned four. And they can tell you they are four years old all by themselves. In English, French and with a little coaxing in Farsi and Punjabi too. This is because they attend a French school in Belgium, live in an English speaking home and have both Iranian and Indian (Punjabi) family. [PHOTOS]
A week ago we attended a large family wedding in Toronto – the second trip to Canada this year for the boys. The first time, February, was tough. They both had bouts of flu and we asked everyone to stay away in case they fell ill too. This time we decided to acclimatise them to North America by visiting cousins in Raleigh, NC first before flying on to Toronto for the wedding.
My cousins in Raleigh are also twins, only identical twins (my two aren’t identical), older and luckily for us, they have built houses next door to one another. So we could visit either brother and their wife, whenever we wanted to.
My mum called from the UK to speak to us all. Siavash’s turn with my mum revealed how confused he was:
My mum: “Are you staying with Uncle Mammad?”
Siavash: “Yesh, but dersh two of dem…”
After Raleigh we would fly on to the wedding before flying back to Brussels via NY. The plan was to spend a couple of days showing the boys the Bronx Zoo and the Manhattan Children’s Museum. It was to be their two days rather than mummy and daddy’s. So absolutely no shopping.
In the end we didn’t go to the Bronx because it was rainy and miserable. Instead we went shopping. While shopping we discovered that NY is not conducive to dragging four year olds for walks around 5th Avenue. It was simply too packed with toddler trampling people who seemed only to stare ahead and not around them. So we carried the boys or, mostly, took taxis.
One particular African-American driver was very chatty with the boys. His name was Tony.
Tony: “What’s your name boys?”
Twins: “Sheevash and Kouwosh! We are four!”
I explained that their names were pronounced Siavash and Kourosh.
Tony asked more questions and the boys answered. Topics ranged from school to favourite toys. I started to dose off and rested my temple on the door window gazing at the shoppers and suited business folk clogging the sidewalks.
Siavash to our AFRO-American taxi driver: “Tony, do you live in a tree?”
I felt my body tensen. This had come out of nowhere.
Tony: “No, I do not.” said slowly and deliberately.
I pressed my head against the glass and prayed he would understand that my boys could not possibly be white, or in their case, brown supremacists.
Me: Uncle David has a tree house. He doesn’t live in it does he?
And with that the subject of conversation changed and all conversation ground to a halt. I sighed with relief, un-tensened and drifted to sleep.
In Toronto we were THE wedding family. By which I mean that Varinder (my wife) was a bridesmaid, I was the Master of Ceremonies and the boys, together with another little boy of similar age, were ring bearers. So we were all dressed in suits except V who wore a cocktail types dress like the other six bridesmaids.
The wedding was taking place at the Park Hyatt (on Bloor and Avenue in Toronto). For the entire week we stayed at the this same place and were made to feel like minor royalty. Our room was large and (very importantly) all paid for by using someone else’s credit card. So I did not weep when we ordered one pasta chicken and two kid’s chicken nugget meals and a bowl of strawberries on room service that came to $130.00 Canadian.
Any time we left our room we made sure the boys were dressed beautifully. After all we could bump into the rich and famous at any time – including Jude Law who was staying in a suite above us. One morning we had almost reached the lobby when Varinder let out a faint sqeal. I looked at her and she at me, wide eyed and covering her nose and mouth with both hands.
“We forgot to put their shoes and socks on!”
But it was too late, the rich and famous had already seen us and the boy’s bare feet. V was mortified. The boys had calmly walked bare foot on cold marble floors for at least 200 yards without saying a word. I thought it kind of cool. Kind of hippie-ish.
The wedding itself was a mixed Indian Iranian affair with the best food, music and rituals of both cultures including a sprinkling of western fashions. It was beautiful, loud and international with dancing late into the night.
And any wedding on a scale such as this must always be preceded by a memorable bachelor and hen party. So ten of us boys gorged ourselves at a private dining club whose name escapes me before moving on to a night club called the Lobby on Bloor St. But security wouldn’t let us in. I didn’t blame them. There was a private party taking place and the host was the Vodka company known as ‘Absolute’. We could see only beautiful people inside. I studied our own reflections on the windows outside – a bunch of Indians, Iranians and the odd Englishman dressed in T Shirts and jeans. Hardly the fashionistas we could see inside. We all felt like street urchins looking into a pie shop on Chrismas Eve in a Charles Dicken novel.
After a few minutes of being ignored while trying to get attention one of our party did something I have never seen done before. He pulled a credit card from his wallet and flashed it. Within one minute the MANAGER had been summoned. He shook all of our hands. Within seven minutes a stunning model of a waitress was showing us to our seats (we hadn’t booked any). The card which was flashed, in case you are interested, was an AMEX Centurion card. It can get you into anywhere as long as you average $80,000 in transactions a month on it. Not a credit card for the faint hearted.
Our final and predictable stop was a place called the Brass Pole where we spent an hour or so watching naked ladies polishing poles which already seemed shiny enough to me. Nevertheless I watched to see just how shiny they could get them, to music.
The day after our piss up I still had to wake up early with the twins and get them dressed to take them to their grandparents room, on a different floor to us. Once back in our room I was crawling into bed again when V moaned that she couldn’t get up. She had a migraine. A mild one thankfully but one that still meant she couldn’t get herself to the SPA in the hotel basement to have a manicure and pedicure.
“You go in my place dolly bird…”
“But my nails are fine.”
“Please go, I paid a lot of money for it and I don’t want it to go to waste.”
“Will it hurt?”
At 10am I found myself in an environment that felt like it had been created on the Holo-deck of Star Treck Enterprise. It had a dream like quality to it with ambient music, tropical plants and running water here and there.
Attractive tall women wandered around in white coats. One such lady made me change into bathrobes and follow her into a curtained off room. She started with my feet while I read ‘Mens Health’ magazine. A publication for anally retentive males who have no girlfriends and make too much money. I so wished I could become one.
When she started on my hands I decided to make polite conversation. Her accent took me by surprise because I had thought she was Canadian – she was blonde. Yet she had an accent which seemed like a cross between Russian and Italian. It turned out she was Romanian. We could hardly understand each other.
“Are there many Iranians in Toronto?”
“No. Not really.” She replied after a long pause.
Her answer took me by surprise. There are billions of Iranians in Toronto.
“There aren’t many Iranians?” I enquired again.
“It mostly sunny and some time it cloudy too…”
“It no rain too often.”
I figured she had confused ‘Iranian’ with ‘rain’. So I decided to only smile and nod as she spoke. After one such smile and a nod she opened a bottle of clear nail varnish and proceeded to varnish my finger nails. I was taken by surprise and was too polite to yank my hands away. I also assumed she knew what she was doing and that men who have manicures might indeed have their nails varnished. Especially ones who read ‘Men’s Health’.
V wasn’t amused.
“I always knew you were a closet gay and now here we are.”
“It’s quite subtle I think…”
“It’s as subtle as Liberace!”
The wedding took place the following day (I’ll write it up some day) and a day later we were getting ready to board a flight to New York. All US customs and immigration checks take place in Toronto before you leave. V and I had to be finger printed but thankfully the twins are too young for such nonsense. When I pressed each index finger down on the scanner the immigration guy did what looked like a double take on my shiny, lacquered, fingernails. I glanced at V who had also detected the double takes and was busily occupying herself with the twins so she wouldn’t laugh out loud.
Following New York and the embarrassing episode with our taxi driver, we flew back home to Belgium. It was depressing. I lost my car in the car park. The house was cold and we all fell asleep on the sofas for most of the day completely jet lagged.
Which is why I am writing this article in my father in law’s house where we have come to spend the boy’s half term and to slowly get back into the groove of everyday life. I know my in-laws have noticed my nails and said nothing… [PHOTOS]