After a couple of weeks of neglect, the kitchen looked a disaster zone. So I decided to tackle it, bright and early, on this fine Saturday morning. Save for a pickle jar and a few onions, I found the fridge empty. I threw on some sweats, tied my hair in a pony tail, grabbed the old check book and purse and headed out the door to go grocery shopping.
Once at the store I walked up and down the aisles twice picking consumables, perishables, shelvables and all sorts of stuff that the family likes to eat. Checking the prices, as one does, I was quite chuffed with myself to have filled my cart to the brim without risking next month’s health insurance premium payment. As I maneuvered the cart past my fellow shoppers, with a quick ‘excuse me’ here, and a smile – sometimes broad, sometimes timid, there, there was my light bulb moment, right at the fruit stand. Here I am – in my sweats, going about my business of getting food, the biggest challenge at hand appearing to be to remain within a budget. Nobody minds me. Nobody is bothering me. I don’t have demons in my closet, monsters in my head, white elephants at the family dinner table. I have nothing to fear or run away from. No huge aspirations to be recongized by the masses. My family and friends do just fine – thank you very much. Yes – I am a nobody. A plain Jane. Hip hip Hooray.
And then I was reminded of the demise of the family I have been reading about ever since the news of Ali-Reza Pahlavi’s suicide was released on Tuesday January 4, 2011. A family imprisoned by fame and fortune. What calamity. So shocking.
I was reminded of all the other blessings that had come my way in the past four decades ever since I was packed off abroad. Homesickness, Not having enough money. No family nearby. Sometimes no means to contact my family – notably the war years. I had to mother myself and father me also. Lonely nights and cold rainy days. Studying hard. Cooking up creative schemes to earn money – working at the campus pizza joint, tutoring mediocre students, typing manuscripts at the local law office or the theses for this graduate student or that. I baby sat, dog sat, house sat, read to the elderly, pushed their wheelchairs here and there; listened to their stories – the endless stories of hardship and challenges, victories – often small ones wrapped with big sentiments. I even completed a stint as an orderly in some hospital, changing bed pans, collecting half eaten trays of food, dotted with vomit and spit. Watching and smelling the passing of human life, on the monitors in those sterile rooms – where the sickest of them all – the cancer patient, the terminally ill, the weakest, oldest, even the barely moving skeleton, fiercely struggled to hold on to dear life; precious life. Oh yes – one last breath, one more molecule of oxygen, the next sunrise, the next meal, one more piece of news for them to feel part of this world. Fighting death, fleeing the chase, gnashing at it – laughing in its face – refusing to surrender.
What a blessing to have witnessed all that up close. I hadn’t thought about them for so long. It actually made me chuckle as I traipsed along the wine aisle. This, I thought, deserved a bottle. Pinot Noir or Cabernet? $11.99 for the latter. Cab it is.
And so, here I find myself, with a full cart at my local grocery store – in my sweats, facing the cashier. The young man with the tattoo of a lipstick mark on his neck gives me a wonderful smile and asks me “Did you find everything today, Ma’am?” I smile back, first because my place as Ma’am and not Miss is now firmly established, and secondly because I can answer in the affirmative.
“Of course. More than you know.” I chime back.
“Can I get someone to help you out?” He asks.
“No. Thank you. I can manage.” I respond. Afterall I would not want to deprive myself of manual exertion and thus, the wonderful feeling of being alive.
Upon return home, after hauling the groceries into the kitchen, putting them away and finally stopping for a rest, I breathe a sigh of relief, of gratitude, of humility. I thank my lucky stars that I have been spared a multi million dollar trust fund and a famous Dad.
“On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” Said the fox to the little Prince.
Without ever having known the man, nor what took him to the brink of despair which pushed him over the cliff to nothingness, AliReza Pahlavi spoke to me clearly. Whatever enviable privilege he may have had, grocery shopping in sweats on a budget wasn’t one of them.