I was born in the middle of the night. But I had to wait for a while so that my father could drive a few blocks to get the mid-wife out of her bed and bring her to our home. Like most parents, mine hesitated to trust my jewels to the sharp knife of a surgeon at a very young age. They waited and waited until I was about to go to the first grade when they broke the news to me.
Having anticipated my reaction, they included my two other cousins of around the same age who lived down the street in a package deal! All three of us would go to our neighborhood clinic and get circumcised at the same time. My 10-year old cousin weighed in on the conversation to convince us.
“You guys have to do this before they let you into the school. On the first day of school, the principal will check everyone’s hair, fingernails and you have to bring your own flat plastic cup to drink water out of the hose in the school yard. You can’t put your mouth on the hose!”
I was very familiar with our neighborhood clinic and the good doctor that worked there. He had seen me, my cousins and almost all of the boys on our street on a regular basis. You name a body part, and he had put a few stitches on it. On many occasions when a kid’s mom was not home or was out shopping, one of the relatives or neighbors would rush the bloody bodies to the clinic. On our street, it definitely took a village to raise a child!
There was the time that we were just sitting around watching the older boys play soccer when a brick fell off the wall and landed on some kids’ head. One of the moms rushed him to the clinic for a few stitches. Or the time that one of the guys was showing off his new Brno BB gun. He was letting us all handle the gun for just a few seconds when a stray cat showed up, walking gingerly on the wall. A struggle broke out on who could shoot the cat and somehow the BB gun went off hitting a kid on the shoulder; nothing too serious, but a mandatory trip to the clinic.
There was a Haji (Haji Tonbooni) who lived a few homes down the street. He took special pride in his old Mercedes 220. Whenever there was clean water running down the street waterway (Joob), he would come out of his house in his pajamas and block the water so that he could wash his car with a bucket and a Longe. On one occasion, as the water rose and flowed onto the sidewalk, making it very slippery, a couple of the kids chasing the ball slid and ended up at the clinic; a few stitches on the knee and the chin!
But the strangest of all the incidents happened when one not-so-bright kid was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for the freshly-baked Sangak bread to cool off. As you may know, Iranian bakeries bake Sangak in a hot oven on top of river rocks and small pebbles. Once in a while, a small pebble gets stuck in the back of the bread. And you are always warned by your parents to watch out for the little pebbles. As this kid was hitting the pebble with a fork to get it off the hot bread, it dislodged and shot up and got stuck in his nostrils! Hard to believe! Another trip to the clinic!
My aunt and my two cousins showed up at our door early in the afternoon and we started walking towards the neighborhood clinic. At the clinic, the nurse told us to take our shorts off and lay on our backs on the three small side-by-side beds, our things covered with white towels. My mom and aunt stayed outside the room. We laid there quietly for a while until the ceiling fan got our attention. We were trying to figure out how to get up there and pull the string so that the fan would go faster!
After a while, the doctor came in, gave a few instructions to the nurse and got started. It didn’t take too long for him to finish the job. When the medication wore off, he told us to sit up. By then we were all bandaged up. The doctor looked us over and then told the nurse to give us 3 white skirts to wear! He said that we should be wearing the white skirts for a few days until the wounds heal. We were not supposed to play or run around either. It was so embarrassing walking out of the clinic wearing the stupid white skirts. People were looking at us and smiling. They knew that the three of us had just been circumcised.
And it got worse when we got to our street. Some of the kids saw us and started pointing to our skirts and making comments. More and more kids rushed out of their homes to see us. They sure had a field day with the whole thing! We dropped our heads and quickly got back into our homes. It was truly a public circumcision!
For the next few days, I just sat by the window, in my white skirt and watched the other kids play.
On Friday, my mom and aunt threw a big Khatneh Soori party for the three of us. They put three chairs in front of the TV and told us to sit there in our white skirts that have turned slightly yellow by then and with plenty of food stains. As the relatives and family friends were coming through, we just sat there motionless, like royalty! The other boys came around, but as soon as they realized that we could not play, they left us and ran outside. The girls were more curious. They wanted to know what the deal with the skirts was. They kept staring at us and whispering to each other. One of them dragged her mom over to explain the skirts. We just sat there and tried to look dignified.
In another day or two the bandages and the skirts came off and we were back on the street again!
God bless you the good doctor of the old neighborhood!