Grandmother provides private window on US Iranian elders of the diaspora

Bahar Mirhosseini – WNN Features

An Iranian elder woman walks alone
Many Iranian elder women face life alone. Image: Shahram Sharaf

(WNN) OPINION: Her name is Zahra, the grown-up daughter of a bread baker. A Sufi and mother in high heels and flower print dresses who specialized in teaching Farsi to first graders. Now her broken English is punctuated by words from her home in the U.S.– words like “pain” and “thank you” (pronounced /tank yoo/) to Christina, the blonde physical therapist, who massages her and drinks her Iranian tea.

For over thirty years Zahra taught Tehran’s first graders how to read and write; how to hold a pencil in their hands; and how to become upstanding citizens in a country that later came to be swatted and crushed, pushed, toiled and bombed as it was turned upside down by the ravages of revolution, war and international isolation.

Zahra had a trail of her own pretty Iranian daughters all in pigtails, ponytails and matching cotton dresses. From the oldest to the youngest; from the tallest to the shortest stood my mother, Elahe.

Being born first with the burden of responsibility my mother gazed over the line of her younger siblings. Shayesteh, who is now into meditation, posed in a fighting stance, fist clenched. Arasteh, with her handmade fokol (bow tie) in her hair, drafting patterns for women’s apparel at an overly competitive, high-end company. Nazanine so young, stood quietly in her summer dress while the whiteness of her eyes grew excitedly.

And Nooshin unbeknownst to the family — writing essays, creating sculptures and paintings. Years later with her college degrees, careers, visas, green-cards and citizenship applications Nooshin had vanished from the photos of the family — nieces and nephews later. Nooshin, unbeknownst to the family once they had all settled one by one on the coast of another country. Nooshin, number four, absent from Ali’s second wedding, Elahe’s car accident and Cina’s high school graduation. She never saw my house across the street from the high school football field.

In that line little Ali stood at the end. Twin to Moji, Uncle Ali, who taught me how to swim.

Decades later and thousands of miles away overseas, we looked at worn out photos of him, at age 18, doing handstands on the old Tehran apartment’s roof railing. With Moji’s hair long and braided. With the free spirit that inspires only the youngest in each family.

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