A forgotten Norooz

On the other side of the ocean, the first day of spring marks the beginning of a new year. The Iranians celebrate the renewal of life with the arrival of blossoms and the awakening of animals, the flight of birds, the swarm of butterflies, the sound of ice caps breaking, and the rivers running.
The families gather around a table of seven ingredients that symbolize the New Year, Norooz. An apple is a symbol of health. A mirror reflects faces, the world and the good that will come. Painted eggs are the existence of life on earth, the birth of animals and man. A fish symbolizes life. And so on.
As the count down begins, elders prepare to reward their grandchildren with money. Once the New Year is announced, family members hug and kiss one another, saying “Eid mobarak”.
The children receive their gifts and collect their bills. And the celebration goes on for two weeks. During this time, relatives meet and celebrate the beginning of a new year with sweets and colorful flowers.
Mamanbozorg bought a gold fish today to complete the table. The fish died on the way home. So now there is a dead fish in the little glass water jug, its eyes wide open, its body still, motionless. No sign of life. The greens or sabze have grown a couple of inches tall, tied with a red ribbon.
Maman was in class when the New Year came. Baba was napping on the couch and Mamanbozorg was eating her dinner. I was watching television, unaware of the one celebration that meant everything to me once.
I have forgotten the jitter and excitement, the way I used to stay up late before Norooz, helping R make the decorations for the table, painting the boiled egg shells passionately with bright colors and flowery designs. I have forgotten the happiness of those days that seemed like yesterday. Yesterday when I was 8 or 9, not a writer yet, but a little child, excited that I would get new shoes and clothes for the New Year. Yesterday when every member of my family was present at the table, thinking that we would be the same for eternity, together as a family. Yesterday when I knew not of freedom or the ideal happiness or the power of words. Yesterday that seems like a decade ago.
Time changes you. Changes the way you feel. The way you remember things, little things, like painted eggs and the fish that come and go every Norooz. I remember the fish. They would last a week or two after Norooz. I would watch them swim from one side of the tiny jug to the other. And I felt sorry that they were not swimming freely in the sea. That they had no freedom. No power.
With time you learn that your country of birth was a prison for many. You learn that people close to you were once revolutionaries who changed what Iran once was. You learn that freedom is not a privilege. You learn that there are secrets and hidden truths beneath the smiles of those you love. With time, you become ambivalent of what is right and wrong, of what is true and false, what is a fact or opinion.
Time changes you.
I am a writer today and my greatest achievement is the words on this sheet. I didn’t fight for my country. I never saw the revolution or the monarchy that killed loved ones I never met. I came into the world when bombs tore the streets of Tehran apart in an eight-year war with Iraq. I left that world with a hesitant, incomprehensive farewell to a brother and a thousand little memories of the pieces of Tehran.
And time changed me. I became a writer in a world of freedom and gold fish that freely swam. I lost much. But gained more in return. I kept Tehran in my heart. But I forgot certain smells and feelings. Like the smell of Norooz and its excitement.
Perhaps one day, I will remember again. For now, I must retreat back to the room, hug Maman, Baba, and Mamanbozorg, and wish them a happy year, wish everyone a good year, here and there. It’s time.

4 Comments, RSS

  1. mojtaba May 1, 2007 @ 3:44 am

    I’m going to leave Tehran to US soon. I’m afraid to feel like you one day. If I can neglect Norooz, it wouldn’t be like a change for me, but becoming another human!! anyway I hope that what I gain will be more than what I lose (as in your case). Any more posts about the changes you’ve experienced is highly appreciated 🙂

  2. sasha March 24, 2007 @ 5:40 am

    i have the exact same feeling!

  3. shubi March 23, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

    good

  4. saeid kazemi March 22, 2007 @ 9:51 pm

    wow, this was very good, what am I talking about? it was great

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