Feb/March 1997 THE IRANIAN Issue No. 9

Childhood Photo of Bahar Jaberi

Childhood Photo of Bahar Jaberi

Headline: Where have all the children gone?

By Bahar M. Jaberi
Portland, Oregon

I often spend some of my time sitting on the roof of my high-rise apartment building, looking down at the people below who look like ants after their daily bread. I've lived here for a couple of years and I enjoy spending time up there looking at the view, looking down at the small park where there's a Jungle Jim, a swing set, saw dust and grass for children to play in.

On occasion I've seen tall girls ride the swing set who attend the university across the park, I've seen young lovers cuddle under the shade of an old elm tree, and I've seen our friendly neighborhood transient spend hours on end hollering on the Jungle Jim at 3:00 a.m., but I've never seen any children.

I look over the top of the majestic elm trees that ripple down the length of the park blocks in the summer and I wonder why children can't take advantage of such beauty.

Where have all the children gone?

"They're playing Nintendo and watching television." Said a friend I recently visited. We were sitting around the coffee table, drinking -- what else -- Coffee and having our desserts when I started having one of my childhood flashbacks.

I was telling them about my childhood games and pranks. Something you don't see children do anymore.

First it was the games we used to play when we were sitting in the school bus. The kids in the neighborhood piled up in the bus and were transported to their respective schools. But while stuck in the horrendous traffic jam of the 1970s streets of Tehran, we had time to play some games. By the time we were ready to get off the bus, we either had our hair tousled, a runny nose from crying over losing something or a hurt feeling from favoritism from a popular friend toward a new boy or girl. It was always something!

I was telling my friends how we used to play outside until the last possible moment. We always waited to be called by our parents, and that last five minutes of play time was so much more sweeter than the rest that we always played the hardest and performed to the best of our abilities so that when we slept that night, we would fantasize about the things we would do the next day. Kind of like falling asleep after you've hit the snooze button on your alarm clock and you know you have nine minutes before you really have to get up.

My father would come into the balcony and call out my name, or if he realized I was too far to hear him, he would sneak up behind me and take me home. Those were the shocking moments when my friends had to meet the adults I lived with -- the moment when my fantasy world of being in control was shattered and I had to be escorted home to my world of childhood and reality. It was the moment you hoped you were doing something innocent and sweet that you'd be rewarded for, instead of reprimanded.

I remember the different phases of playing we went through. First there were those cooperative efforts where all the girls and boys got together and played games like soccer, kickball, tag (Gorgam be havA), and hide-and-go-seek (GhAyem Mooshak). We used to run so much that our skins tingled and we were in a constant state of excitement. When we went home all we could do was to fall asleep after playing so hard. Who cared about television?

When we got more mature and we were in our 9-11 year stage, someone introduced us to a game we liked to play in the winter to keep warm. It was called: Haft-sang (seven stones). The game was played with two groups of people, seven semi-flat stones and a tennis ball. When it snowed, we made group forts out of the snow and had snow-ball fights. As we matured we got into mind games, card games, Chinese jump ropes, construction, sculpting the dirt in our back yards thinking it was clay and just sitting around telling stories and falling in love experiencing our first kiss -- a quick and shy smack on the lips -- or falling out of favor with each other.

We never wanted anything from our parents that cost hundreds of dollars to buy and maintain. We made do with what we had and had more fun than anyone and we built memories that we can live by for the rest of our lives.

"If I had to repeat any five-year period of my life over and over, I think I would repeat the period from when I was 8 to when I was 13," I said over my cheese cake to my friends. My friends nodded in unison. It would only make sense. Yes, it would only make sense.

Other articles by Bahar Jaberi

Changing times, changing roles
On Iranian women in Iran vs. in the U.S.

Identity crisis: Who am I?
Dad blares Iranian music at the presence of an American friend...

Identity crisis: Who am I? (Part II)
On learning what it means to be Iranian in America.

Vacationing: American style
Taking a break in Westport, Washington, a tiny coastal town.

In search of fate
Translation of Samad Behrangi's folk story on morals and money.

Lavashak blues
"The memory was so strong for me that it left me feeling nostalgic. "

Pulled away from the Caspian
Never thinking the summer of 1978 would be the last visit to the Caspian.


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