My boys love video games. They sit for hours in front of the TV set and stare at the screen while their fingers silently move the remote Control. Their minds concentrate on this virtual world filled with virtual terrifying creatures and imaginary heroes. My boys’ fights never end and they never tire of the challenges these monsters present.
I enjoy this time we spend together, each of us immersed in our own fictional world. As they play, I look through my mail or surf the web. On Sunday mornings, I read the thick newspaper, and the loud music of the boys’ game accompanies the silence of the news. I study images of death or hunger, and in silence I read about each catastrophe. I selfishly rush to turn the page--all I am looking for is something – anything - that might help me to forget the endless ongoing struggle of my boys. And yet, images of reality so seldom overshadow the devastation of the world in which my boys are trapped. I leaf through photographs, and as I do a sense of abundant relief wraps around me. I forget the anxiety of being a parent.
I wonder about the source of this egoistic joy.
Are those virtual monsters comparable to the real monsters I read about in the news or to the real war my generation endured or to the terror my grandfather felt as he escaped the red revolution? Are my boys’ dreams comparable to the dreams and hopes my parents felt the day I left Iran for good or to my father’s solitude in death and my mother’s silence in the face of solitude? Is the homesickness I feel comparable to the sadness of those who lose their children in war?
And can I forget my own exile that isn’t an exile, because I can return if I want to, and yet, I know I will never want to go back? Perhaps I am entitled to the pity I sometimes feel for myself, to the self-righteousness, to the sweet joy I taste in the bitterness of the news, to this feeling of being at the top, a place my father and grandfather never reached.
But is it really true? How would I know whether they felt this enjoyment or not? Who am I to declare so baldly that they never stood at this same place where I am standing?
I look at my boys playing, screaming and teasing each other, and I remember the gaze in my father’s eyes as he waved goodbye the last time I saw him, and this gaze still represents to me ultimate joy. Didn’t my father fail in his life? Wasn’t he but one teacher in an insignificant neighborhood? What justifies the drunken happiness that sparkled in that single gaze he offered me—his daughter?
Why does my own happiness feel so sober? So lonely?
Suddenly today, sitting in peace, I realized I have skipped over generations of misery to be here. In this place that offers this amazing possibility—of watching my boys transforming into heroes, fighting against harmless monsters. This place where I own the power of listening casually to their unimportant war in a made-up world. This place where whether they win or lose does not matter. This place where I know even if the monsters kill my boys today, they will, like the Phoenix, be reborn, intact, without a scratch.
Maybe my father was a magician or a visionary. Maybe as he waved goodbye to me he was already aware of the existence of this peaceful world where happiness is silent and sober, even simple. Maybe he imagined his daughter flying toward this egotistical space where nobody need be a hero.
I smile at my boys, knowing that moments later they will turn and wave at me with shining eyes.
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