My Childhood (From What I Know) – Part IV: The Sisters

My sisters cannot be any more different from each other. My mom used to always say, the eldest (let’s call her Pam) thinks only with her heart. The middle (let’s call her Keri) thinks only with her brain. And I, the youngest, am lucky to be balanced with both. I must say, I’ve always appreciated that. But while my heart and brain communicate well with each other, my heart is usually the one that ones (there’s my laila 1 and laila A dilemma again).

My sisters are both significantly older than me, 13 and 10 years. So undoubtedly, they’ve lived a large portion of their lives without me, and only in snippets of information have I learned of the devastating experiences they have had. Yes, I feel I have had many of my own. But I cannot imagine what it would have been like to live in that household in the middle of the Iranian Revolution. From being chased down the street because they dared look at a member of the “secret police” sideways or because a ring of hair accidentally showed itself from underneath their head scarves. They were children and it must have been unbearably scary. They have memories of meeting neighbors in the basements of our buildings in the middle of the night, as the bomb sirens wailed overhead. When I was in high school, there was a few radio rap songs that came out with an air raid siren in the background. I turned it up on the radio one day. My mom got extremely upset and started crying. Pam just clamped both hands on her ears and started yelling at my mom to make me shut it off. I didn’t know why. Now I do. I feel bad.

Also unbearably scary, was my mother apparently. My older sister practically raised us. And Keri, although she’s quite private about the past, recently told me about an incident that happened shortly after we had fled Iran, and were staying in a hotel in Switzerland. My mother had a friend coming to visit, and she looked over the railing next to the hotel elevator to see Keri on the floor she needed to get to. Keri, being no more than 7 or 8 hit the elevator buttons, thinking she was helping. But it made the elevator take longer. When my mother finally got down to the floor, she reached out of the elevator, grabbed Keri by her hair, pulled her in and slammed her head against the elevator wall so hard, my sister remembers seeing stars. She came down with a crash and then was abruptly kicked by my mother’s fat, heavy leg. Of course, a great deal of yelling ensued. She then left her in the elevator, with orders to go straight back to our room, and walked out to the lobby to go get her friend. Keri was the mischievous one in the family – always getting into things she shouldn’t have, and as fearless as a little boy. But no amount of mischief deserves a beating. And I don’t know if it’s worse or better that it was in public.

Needless to say, they clearly went through a lot.

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My Childhood (From What I Know) – Part III: Mom

*sigh*

When I think about mom, it’s as if I split into two people. (It may have to do with being on the cusp of scorpio and sagittarius though. It can be a very conflicting state of mind!)

laila A’s bleeding heart is always loudest at first: Your heart aches to think about her because you know she is sick and nobody would live their life doing the things she does consciously. She doesn’t know any better. And she’s been through a lifetime of strife. Love her. Accept her. Help her.

But laila 1’s stubbornness strikes immediately: How can I love her when she took my one chance at a childhood and turned it into loneliness and confusion? She did not teach me basic life skills, and she made walls from words to keep me away from my cousins, aunts and uncles, simply because they were on my dad’s side of the family. I missed out on so much because of her. I struggle to live a normal life because of her. I sacrificed everything I could in my teens and early 20’s because of her. I put aside my dreams for her.

But laila A does not back down: How can you love her you ask?! Because she can’t help herself. We just talked about this! (She rolls her eyes.) And she did the best she could with what she had. She loves you with all her heart, and you break hers when you don’t call or show that you care.

laila A. That bitch usually wins.

My mother didn’t take care of my sister’s very well in Iran. My oldest sister did most of the cooking and cleaning and my middle sister, while she hasn’t denied that, has never refuted it either. (And she would, because a: she’s honest to a fault and b:the two don’t have the best relationship.) How can you blame them? From what I understand, mom hit them often and yelled at them even more.

When we moved to London, my mother had a mitral valve repair to her heart. Funny – the most I’ve ever really known about this is from a story that my family pull’s out of the Family Arsenal of laila’s Embarrassing Childhood Stories, which they like to share with friends and (when we were dating), my husband. Apparently, when my sisters took me to go see her in the hospital, they gave me a carnation to give to her. The second we walked in though, my two year old self must have been so overwhelmed by the sight of my “mommy” hooked up to machines, that tears started rolling down my cheeks and I started eating the flower petals frantically, as my eyes remained locked on my mother. (Umm…the beginnings of stress eating anyone?) Hahahaha. I think that’s hilarious. Little did I know that I’d see her in that state often.

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My Childhood (From What I Know) – Part II: Dad

In the US, my father worked extremely hard, six days a week as a sole proprietor and every Sunday as our personal gardener, lawn mower and handy man. My mother was an amazing cook and did catering on the side for extra cash (because my father didn’t seem to give her a decent “allowance”). Needless to say, she made sure there was a always a steaming plate of rice on the table with whatever delicious Persian stew she had spent all day making. I’m guessing this contribution to her household was a direct result of her upbringing and her lessons on how to be a good Persian housewife.

Although I’m only realizing this now, they were never particularly affectionate towards each other.

I sincerely loved my father. I looked up to him despite all the things my mom would say to me while he was at work. He taught me how to ride a bike, he taught me how to pick fruit off the trees in our front yard, how to take care of tools after you use them, how to enjoy a football game, and how to appreciate the centuries old martial arts displayed in the ridiculous Jean Claude Van Dam movies. Thinking about those things now brings a smile to my face.

Like most little kids, I thought my father knew everything. He would go into great detail about how electricity works, how you gain interest in your bank account, how birds migrate each winter, the difference between an automatic and stick shift car, and the importance of taking care of yourself. My mother did not teach me these things, particularly the latter point.

I didn’t think it was weird that my dad slept on the floor of my room every night, instead of sharing the bed with my mom. All I know is that I got used to the snoring, and in the morning when it was time for school, he would gently wake me up with this soft popping sound he made intermixed with what translated to, “wake up my little darling, it’s time to learn all you can in school.” As I write this, a flood of memories come back to me. Along with tears.

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