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.