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The lavaashak years
My bulletproof childhood in Tehran (Inspired by "Somehow we survived!!!")

January 31, 2003
The Iranian

Looking back at my childhood and teen years, it's hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have. I grew up in Tehran of the 1960's and 70's.

As children, we would ride in my uncle's old VW bug or my father's Paykan with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck (in Persian "Vaanet") on a warm day was always a special treat, no matter how dangerous and illegal it may be nowadays!

Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles. Heck, a whole lot of us had no medicine, period. There were no safety latches on doors, or cabinets, and those of us who were lucky enough to have a bike, rode them with no helmets.

Many of us kids drank water from the street-side creeks in north of Tehran or from the garden hose; no bottled water or filters on the refrigerator door! What horror!

We would spend hours building our wooden scooters or go-carts out of scraps and then rode down Shemiran's steep hills, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes or the back of our neighbors' Zhian (a model of Citroen cars, that used to be manufactured in Iran) a few times we learned to solve the problem.

On many hot and long summer days, we would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. No cell phones, pagers or wireless Blackberries. Unthinkable!

We played "Vasati" (dodge ball) or "Haft Sang" (a bastardized version of baseball designed for small confines) and sometimes the ball would really, really hurt. We received cuts and broken bones and broke teeth and there were no law suits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?!

We had fights and punched each other's lights out! We got black and blue and learned to get over it.

We ate "lavaashak" (fruit roll-ups), "noon cakey" (cup cakes), bread and lots of butter, and drank sugar soda. But we were never overweight.

We shared one Canada Dry (orange soda) with four friends, from one bottle and no one died from contagious diseases!

Summers were long but also filled with loads of fun! We did not have PlayStations, Nintendo 64, X Boxes, or any other modern play gadgets at all. 99 channels on cable, forget it! There were no video taped movies, surround sound stereo systems, personal cellular phones, personal computers or Internet chat rooms.

We had friends! We went outside and found them. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's home and knocked on the door, or rang the bell or just walked in and talked to them. Then we left together strolling down the streets, not too close to our homes, and rang the doorbells and ran away, as fast as we could.

Imagine such a thing. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate the most horrendous junk food and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever!

There was no little league baseball or school sponsored big time sporting like you see here in the States. No one's mom drove them to soccer practice on weekends and to my knowledge there are still no "soccer moms" in Iran! Those of us with sports interests had an hour-per-week physical fitness class and if lucky enough an occasional school sponsored football (soccer) or volleyball tournament with other schools.

Those who had higher interest played in the neighborhood alleys and in those fun "gol kocheek" games (version of soccer played with small goal posts and small playing field). Those who didn't even have these minimums, had to learn to deal with disappointments.

The end of a school year was always eventful and busy. Those who did not get good enough grades at the finals (early June), had to study all summer long and take make up tests at the end of summer to see if they would go to the next grade. They called this condition "tajdidee" (means repeating). Horrors! Tests were not adjusted for any reason and there were no excuses for failing!

Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. No one to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of, unless of course your last name was "Erieh" or "Farmanfarmaian" or "Katouzian" or ... Parents actually sided with the law, imagine that!

Our generation produced some of the best minds in our country. These were problem solvers, inventors and the likes, many of whom were killed in the revolution of 1978 and the Iran-Iraq war. Yet an even larger number of this generation left Iran and took the benefit of their minds to other places.

I hope and long for the return of the peace of mind that was in Iran of our childhood which was perhaps what made us all so germproof and hardy!

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