Persianchyld is an exploration into memory. At three a child is only beginning to grasp the subtleties of language, and yet the senses are alive at three like at no other age. Iran was where I discovered myself, and where I lost myself too. This blog is a tribute to the year I spent in Iran - 1970-1971. www.persianchyld.blogspot.com
When I woke, the house was silent and still shedding its darkness with milky early morning shadows. I watched them through the slats of my crib with half-opened eyes. The noises from the night before, the rhythmic bark of the kitchen door as it swung like a heavy wooden pendulum when anyone pushed their way through, and my mother’s voice, piercing, all had fallen away in the night and in a moment’s time it seemed had turned in to this silent morning. I rolled over, tucking my knees underneath me, and sat up, rubbing my eyes with balled fists to clear them, smelling the moistness of my thumb which I had been sucking most of the night. The small rolling hillside of my sister’s back did not move in the next bed.
Since arriving in Iran we had been spending most of our days in Tadjrish in this big stone house and courtyard within the safety of the tall stone walls that embraced all that had now become familiar. The pond where my grandmother rinsed her pots, the folding table where Grandpapa played backgammon with my mother, the small garden plot that Grandmama tended, the slender trunks of fruit trees, these were the resting places, and the passages between them were my playground, my race track and my dance floor. No one seemed to know how to traverse the space like I could and I found joy in discovering its hiding places, its subtle changes with each passing day.
I heard the sound of steam escaping from the kitchen teapot and knew that meant Grandpapa would be waiting for his breakfast in his usual place. The springs under my mattress creaked under my weight as I stood and lifted my leg and rolled over the crib wall, dropping to the floor. At the window I could peer over the sill to spy him sitting patiently with his hands resting on his cane, his hair a bushel of whiteness, his eyes fixed on some far away spot on the garden wall. There was an empty chair next to him. The breakfast had not yet arrived.
When I arrived at his side with a polyester robe over my shoulders and a pair of plastic slippers on my feet, he turned to me and smiled with his eyes, patting the empty chair next to him. I settled into the chair and searched for the spot on the garden wall that had caught his attention and joined him in staring at it. I glanced up to take in the colorful umbrella of branches and brittle leaves that autumn had brought and watched them vibrate in the breeze. I wondered what he would have said to me if I could have understood him. I wondered how long we would sit before Grandpapa’s breakfast would arrive. He sat quietly, patiently and the deep lines on his face were a maze of cracks that made him seem like a statue, but one made of soft warmth and not the coldness of stone.
It took two trips to the kitchen to bring the spread of food out to him – a small shapely glass of steaming auburn tea with two white cubes of sugar balanced on a glass saucer, a basket of warm flatbread dusty with flour and tiny jars of dark jams in reds and purples. Some phrases were exchanged between my grandparents, and the second tray brought small cubes of white cheese in a bowl. I wanted to reach out for a square of cheese, to feel its wetness between my fingers, and the saltiness on my tongue, but instead I waited. I’d joined him already enough times to understand that he would share with me.
Grandpapa placed a square of flat bread in his palm and a square of the white salty cheese in its center. A spoonful of cherry preserve was dripped on top from a silver spoon coated with its sticky sauce. He rolled the bread closed and handed it to me with a napkin under it. I gladly took it from him, quickly letting the napkin fall to the ground as I sank my teeth into the sticky mixture of sweet and salty wetness and dry bread. When I was through I licked my fingers clean.
In the tea was a miniature metal spoon and I watched next as Grandpapa placed a white cube of sugar in his cheek and removed the spoon before he brought the glass to his lips to drink. Threads of dark tea leaves floated in the tea which shone red as I watched him drink it down in one smooth gesture, and place the glass back on its saucer. When he reached out for another slice of bread my brows went up in earnest.
Did you forget? My eyes asked, eyeing the last cube of sugar that remained on his saucer. Will today be the day that you forget? But he did not forget, and before long I had the cube on my tongue, dissolving it slowly to fill my mouth with sugar juice. The last taste of sugar to leave my mouth marked the end of breakfast, and the tray was returned and the jars and basket were cleared before the sun could peak over the courtyard walls. The city woke around us with the sounds of cars and peddlers unseen, and our courtyard filled with the busyness of the day. My grandfather and I would begin again the next morning, and once again I would leave the warmth of my bed to be the recipient of his early morning gift.
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