As we approach Norooz, a feeling of
nostalgia and yearning fills my heart. The pain of a past long gone and the longing for a dear land that
I have not seen for more than two decades but can still revive its scents in
my mind, as if it were yesterday, sometimes becomes over whelming.
Norooz had a special place in our household, it was something more than a
tradition or ritual, it was more than a celebration, it was sacred, we observed it in full fledge.
Ignoring a single element, it was instilled in our minds, could be bad omen. Norooz was the time of mending the broken
hearts, making up with the ones we had hurt, extending a helping hand to the
ones who were less fortunate, and a time when doors were open all day long
to family and friends, to the rich and the poor, and you never were tired
to receive people or to go from one place to the next and stay for lunch or
dinner wherever you happened, at that hour, to descend ..
Mother fanatically observed every rule and every custom. From months before
Norooz she was thinking first about everyone's " lebas-e eid" and then
"khooneh takani " and then baking, with dear Zahra's help, home made
cookies, baklava, sohan, and the rest. A few weeks before eid, plates of grown
wheat and lentils and ....would be seen on a mantle or a table,
or by the window pane. She might have decided to change a curtain here, a
table cloth there, or just a set of new dinnerware for a change. The yard
was cleaned, the gardens plowed, spring flowers were planted, a bunch of
daffodils here, a few jasmines there, and the outside and the inside of the
house would be painted, with its annual paint.
Though a bit on the chubby side, mother was truly beautiful, with ivory
skin, hazel eyes, and long chestnut hair, most often bundled with a pin on the
back of her head. Mother was a perfectionist and quite adamant in her ways.
Nothing made her more uneasy than taking the traditions lightly or ignoring
the trend. She was the planner of every event, the one to balance the household
budget, the one to oversee the children with whatever they were doing at a
given day. She was the center of our love and our awe, the one who had the
last word and usually had to be obeyed. A strong headed, energetic, strict woman
but at the same time the kindest and the most sensitive of all time and a perpetual worrier for the things that might go wrong.
Father, on the other hand, was the essence of serenity and peacefulness. He
was adored by all, attracted people's respect with no effort. A learned
educated man for his time but humble and kind towards a child, a grown up, a
beggar or a king. He would sometimes disappear on a weekend for an hour or
two and when I asked him "where were you father?" he would say " nowhere
dokhtar jan, just visiting a friend, " and then immediately he would say
"promise you never forget those who need a friend" and I did not know what
he exactly meant. It was only after his death that we came to know the families that he helped.
The children had never even heard him raise his voice, or impose his thoughts, or pretend as if he knew it all.
He had something that made you love him and respect him no matter what.... ......Friends and family asked his
advice, his words were uttered with such sincerity and demonstrated such
wisdom that it was hard to discard.
The relationship between father and mother remained loving cordial and cherishing to the end. When he talked about her, looking at you with his
piercing huge brown eyes, it was pure admiration "if you only had seen her
when she was young" or "I am sure mother knows", or "she has an exquisite
taste", and mother's most effective threat would be " I will tell your
father when he is back", and that was that. It was amazing how this strong
headed extremely smart knowledgeable woman, revered and respected her
beloved man. HER untold frequent messages to her children were "be the kindest and the most humble but also be strong,
persevering, and brave".
No matter at what precise time the winter gathered its wings to fly over the
mountains and oceans and plains to move to the southern hemisphere and give
its place to the caressing breeze of the spring, we were ready. Be it in
the middle of the night or early in the morning or late at night, all the
lights would be turned on, all the candles lit, and the aroma of Esphand
could be sensed coming from the kitchen. We would all run around in haste
to take shower, to put on our new clothes, to blow dry our hair, to do the
last minutes touch up, as if we were invited to the ball of kings.
A few minutes before Sale Tahvil we would gather around the table set for Norooz. The
Haft Seen was set in the most beautiful form, flowers here and there and candles too, mirror and gold fish and also the
holy book. As the radio or
TV was on and we anxiously awaited that moment, father recited a few verses of Shahnameh or Mathnavi and mother from Hafez. We really did not hear anything as our eyes were hooked to the television or our ears to the
As soon as they started the count down, everyone was silent, our heart beating fast.
Ten, nine, eight,.......and suddenly boom and the bittersweet sound of the
flute which had become the trend to be broadcasted right after Sale
Tahvil was announced. We would all fly to father and mother and kissed their hands and they in their turn would hug and kiss us on the face and gave us the Norooz gift which was usually some brand new
bills between the pages of the Koran.
Since father was the head of the clan, for the first three days, they would stay at home. everyday they had visitors from early dawn until late at night.
We the younger ones would visit the older ones in our own turn and every day came back with a bag full of money and sometimes gold coins.
On the fourth and the fifth father and mother paid their respect to those who had visited
them in the early days. As you went through the street you could see groups of people entering or leaving a house. In
small towns and villages the sight of women and children in their colorful outfits were quite
eye catching and divine.
When we lived in that small town in the north, one day was set aside for the villagers who came from the
vicinities of the town to visit or the
Turkmen coming from the plains. That day was one of the happiest days of
Norooz for us. Big samovars were set in the yard and a special room with a huge
covered with candies and sweets and fruits were set for the visitors which usually all stayed for lunch.
Another day was set for the poor, who came and had a cup of tea and some sweets and
left with their gift. I always remember one of them who passed by our house every night sharp at ten while singing the saddest song
, a few minutes of silence which meant he was at a neighbors' door receiving something for the night, then singing until he reached the end of the town......
....................and the next day and the next..........
........................and I remember it all, I remember and remember and remember in my mind and my heart .
Towards the end, most children were married and had their own home and Norooz table and so forth. There were only father and mother, Kian and Sassan, and I,
left at home. Alas now, the four of them are gone, some died a natural death and some at their prime.
"Sometimes God picks the flower that is still in full bloom; sometimes the
rosebud is chosen that we feel He's picked too soon."
maybe they tried to show me the Truth, not to take anyone, no one for granted.
"maybe Truth was those two young hands, those young hands
which were buried under the incessant falling snow"
Since in exile, I tried to keep the tradition alive. I tried to make it as authentic as possible, partly to observe an important national
identity and partly to do what those two precious, father and mother, loved us so much to
do. But it is not the same, it is never the same, and the yearning burns my heart and the yearning burns my soul and I suppose I will give the rest of my life to be there and then with those whom I cherished and so dearly adored.