Humor and practicality have been my safety net through life’s ups and downs, especially the downs.
Years ago, I used my imaginative mind to change those wasted summers of youth at my father’s farms into an education. While my older sister nagged incessantly about the unfairness of missing the city fun, I took the three months of life in Abbas Abad as a learning experience and tried my hands on a few native skills: field work, tending to livestock and weaving baskets. During school, whenever I came across a subject too difficult to memorize, I made lyrics out of such subjects as the table of elements, names of fossils, or human nerve passages. Singing my silly songs over and over, decades later I can still remember some of them. So it was only natural that a month ago, as we sent off our last baby to college, I did my best to think positive and use humor to soften the blow.
I had already seen two kids out of this house, so I figured I’d be a natural at it. After all, it wasn’t as if his educational dreams were taking him to another continent the way mine had. With him living in another state, I’d be able to see him any time I wanted to.
Despite the years in between, I still remember sending my first child to college. Her school had provided a list of what she’d need: bed sheets, bath accessories, and yaffa blocks -- which up to that point I didn’t even know what they were. We made more trips to the local Target store than ever before, or after. In a matter of days, with my SUV packed to the point of blocking the rear view, we were on our way to Ann Arbor. However, this time with Dad in charge, my son’s departure bore no resemblance to the previous experience.
To begin with, being a transfer student, he had not received a supply list, which meant the local economy wasn't about to benefit from this kid's education. Grabbing an old suitcase to stuff his torn jeans and black T-shirts in, my little boy-now-a-bearded-young-man showed no interest in mom's involvement.
“Is that all you’re taking?” I asked.
“We’ll buy the bare necessities in Portland.”
Standing by the front door with a glass of water to be poured behind them – my Persian insurance for his safe return -- I watched my son. He slung his guitar across his shoulder, put a hand on my shoulder and gave me a peck on the cheek. “Try not to over-dramatize this, Mom!”
“Are you kidding me?” I laughed. “You don’t know the half of my plans. Not only am I taking up drums, I’m going to turn your room into my own private gym.”
The shock I saw on his face still makes me smile.
After they had left, I closed the door and let the empty house swallow me.
Come on, girl. You’re only brainwashed to feel this way. You’ve seen this house empty many times before. It’s all that “empty nest” crap in your head making your eyes water.
For the rest of that day, I pretended everyone was just ‘out’. In the evening, my older daughter took me to a movie and she even spent the night in her old room. By the next morning, I had come to enough senses to put an end to her baby-sitting plans.
For four days, as I walked down the hallway I pretended the room to my left did not exist. It wasn’t until the following Wednesday that the door to my son’s room was finally opened. In her matter-of-fact Spanish, our cleaning lady wanted to know if she should clean my hija's room.
The sight of his unmade bed hit me hard. I recalled all the times I had found my son curled up under the mound of bedding, already late for one thing or another. Oh, the tricks I had used to wake him up!
With no cans of coke nor any empty water bottles lying around, the room seemed unnaturally neat. Not a single item of clothing was in sight and the computer screen seemed black as the darkest night.
“Just change the bed-sheets, please,” I replied and left.
That afternoon, once again alone, I noticed she had cleaned his room and left the door open for me to see. Leaning against the doorframe, I surveyed the place. How long would it be before we stopped calling this my son's room? How long before he stopped calling this house his? Despite being a spacious room, there seemed to be no air to breathe.
Where's my humor when I need it the most?
His drum set, amplifiers, and all the electronic gadgets I still don’t know the names of seemed to be missing him bitterly.
“Lighten up, you guys,” I said. “Consider this is your only chance for a vacation.”
Who knew silence could hurt so much?
Unable to cheer up any of us, I drew the curtains and shut the door.
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