I was born in a hospital on the Mississippi River…but I don’t remember that part of my Minnesota story. When I was one year old, we left this state, but it has always been a second home, on account of my Persian family members living here.
There was a thunderstorm one night that shook the walls of my grandparent’s apartment. We all gathered in the hallway, and I remember being scared but strangely exhilarated.
Persian food. Always a table nearly bending under the weight of platters of rice, khoresht (stew), and the dozen or so side items that go along with such a feast. The women of my family really know how to cook. Food is the central activity that makes a family go round. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all in a friendly chaotic shuffle around the extended tables, taking turns in different homes.
We are a mixed family…at least 4 different countries are represented in the 24 individuals that comprise this group. I love it. The half-English, half-Persian language that is created in the stories and translations is so normal and comforting. The generations of the Baha’i Faith within our family go back to the mid-1800s, and also began in the present day. The extended family has more than 200 members.
Babajoon has a lot of random sayings and advice, and most of my enduring memories of him are of him sitting in a corner with a thick book and his glasses low on his nose. He would make up songs about putting our seatbelts on in the car, and he is the person from whom I have inherited my social personality. He knows everyone.
We picked fresh grape leaves in the park, and Mamanjoon taught us to make dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves), her hands deftly wrapping the edges around and neatly placing them in the pot. Mine still don’t look like hers. Maybe I will be able to do it in 50 years…I just need practice. She taught us how to sew, starting with sewing buttons on pieces of scrap cloth.
I learned how to dance (Persian style) in the living rooms of my aunts’ homes. I learned how to cook in my mother’s kitchen, and how to make kabob koobideh (ground meat on a skewer) from a few different relatives over the years.
My cousins and I were bundled into coats so thick that we could barely move, and told to play in the snow by the swing set. The swing set is gone now…it was a hazard even when I was young. In the summers we would be pushed around in the go-cart my cousins built, or take walks around the neighborhood.