Shohreh pampers her pretty eleven year old daughter as much as any mother I know. She will spare no sacrifice to make sure Nahid is comfortable, goes to the best school, and has everything she needs to command the respect of her peers so that she can lead a happy social life. Ballet, piano, voice lessons, latest Ipad, school field trips to Europe, birthday gifts worth the cost of feeding a whole village in Somalia.
I like Nahid. She has been taught the good manners of a Persian child and seems to actually delight in being pleasant. But somehow, despite the talent, classy upbringing, and the freedoms she has as a child with liberal parents, I feel an odd sadness for her. She is in perfect health, but my heart reaches out to her the way it would for a child in a wheelchair. It wasn’t until last winter’s heavy rains in Los Angeles that I got a clue as to what Nahid’s disability may be.
We had taken Shohreh’s shopping car--a Lexus SUV—to the mall to buy a pair of red party shoes for Nahid. It was a boy’s birthday a couple of mansions up the hill in their neighborhood and Nahid didn’t have the right kind of red shoes. I had said perhaps we should wait for the rain to stop. It was pouring like I have never seen it pour in LA. But Shohreh was worried that if the rains didn’t stop then the streets would flood and Nahid wouldn’t get her shoes in time.
In the mall parking lot, it looked like everyone had had the same worry that if they didn’t do their shopping right then, they may not be able buy what they needed until after the rains stopped. As Shohreh drove into the frighteningly busy parking lot, I thought it would take us a long time to find a parking spot. But Shohreh confidently drove into a spot only a few meters away from the mall entrance, turned off the car and ordered everyone out.
“Shohreh jaan,” I said, “The sign says pregnant women or those with small children
“I won’t get a ticket,” she explained. “This is mall property, not city property. They don’t even check the pregnant women spot because the law doesn’t require it. Only disabled parking spots get tickets.”
“Still…” I said flabbergasted. “It’s not about the ticket. Even if this spot is just a courtesy…”
She stared at me like I was an idiot. “Aamrikaayee baazi dar nayaar! “Which pregnant mom is going to go shopping in this rain? No one will know. Besides they have umbrellas.”
“Shohreh, we have umbrellas too,” I said. “And the only reason this spot is available is because everyone else has been respecting the sign,” Nahid was eyeing the conversation, perhaps to see if this will turn into a mom and dad fight.
“I do this all time,” Shohreh said petulantly.
“OK, but this time it is raining pretty hard. Leaving this spot open for people who really need it is more important now than before when its nice and sunny.”
I offered to park the car while they went inside to shop, but Shohreh gave me another idiot stare and said it wouldn’t be as much fun shopping without me. Meanwhile I could see in Nahid’s face that she was torn between the high ideals they teach at her very expensive school and day-to-day reality where even her mom didn’t believe in them.
Hypocrisy is learned. It is painful and psychologically disfiguring for a child to see a role model act contrary to what is praised as moral. Her still developing conscience will forever trouble her as she walks through life, in just the way a malformed spinal chord would trouble her as she puts one foot in front of the other. Fewer drops of rain on the child's head wasn’t worth damaging her in a way that one would feel as sorry for her as for a child in a wheelchair.
While we walked the shopping mall looking for red shoes, I got Shohreh to talk about her own mom.
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