My Mother Taught Me Well: Summers in Tehran

I used to live for summers in Tehran.

Ever since I was 3 months old, my mom started taking me and my younger brother to Iran with her. Other than my parents, a few family members in LA and some around the rest of the world, the vast majority of our large family was and still is living in Iran. 

The 3 of us would go for 6-8 weeks at a time, sometimes (but rarely) joined by my dad.  Around April I would start asking my mom if she had our flights yet, and if so, when were we leaving. Not that it mattered, mind you. At age 9 I had no real schedule other than First Day of School and Last Day of School but that didn't stop me from counting down the days! I would open my suitcase to begin packing one week before, making sure to bring a handful of swimsuits and 12 books to read for my school's summer reading competition.

I went every summer until I was 19, and every summer had the same sort of bliss to it. I wish I could show you my grandparent's summer house we'd spent a week at, only 20 minutes outside Tehran but with views overlooking mountains and rivers. It had 5 rooms, each with multiple beds, so it felt like what I would imagine summer camp was like: waking up and having breakfast with 10 people, all getting ready for the pool, heading downstairs, and spending the day outside. There's nothing like eating a hot sandwich and drinking an Orange Fanta while half your body was chilling in the water, let me tell you.

 I wish I could show you my dad's family's orchard where we made day trips to pick sour cherries and picnic with the watermelon and feta cheese we had bought at the local market. We had a couple bigger parties happen there too, weddings and birthday parties and such, until eventually we decided to sell the place a few years ago.

Every other night there would be a party at some other relative's house where the adults would sit around the living room drinking 8 cups of black tea, eating fruit and dried nuts,  while us kids would play cards in the den and hide and go seek in the backyard. After dinner the music would come on and we'd all get up to dance the persian way into the night, way past our normal bedtimes.  My mother's parent's house, where we normally stay, has a pool so it became ritual to have the cousins over for pizza and a pool party, nice and casual, ending just before dinnertime.

There's so much I wish I could show you now. It was bright, lively, communal and warm. Late nights out at restaurants, eating ice cream walking through parks, roaming from one family's house to the other, wasting our summer days away with the purpose of spending time with family.

~

I'm 25 and I've been to Iran 27 or 28 times in my life and I'm extremely grateful for being able to say that. Until I was 18, I went to a French immersion school K-12 where most everyone around was either a child of an immigrant or an immigrant themselves. It was rather common for us to be abroad during our summer holidays. Whether it was France, Greece, Indie or Iran, we all went back to where our families were from, traveling through other international places along the way. It wasn't until I got to college that I started realizing how lucky I was. I remember meeting someone who had never left the United States, and I was mind blown. I couldn't fathom what that meant to have family in America for 7 or 8 generations back, what it meant to have never stepped foot beyond American borders. I guess I'm lucky to be a second-generation immigrant, and even luckier that we're able to go back and visit my parent's homeland every year.

~

So here I am in Tehran, sitting at my grandparent's house as I type this, sitting here for the 27th or 28th time. I wish I could show you what my childhood summers were like.

As we've gotten older, cousins have started getting married, generations have started to ebb and flow, and my times in Tehran have started to change. But I guess my mother taught me well. I don't have summer breaks anymore, but I can't just stop going back. It's become part of the way I spend my time: mostly where I am (be that LA or elsewhere), sometimes/whenever I can in Iran. I don't have 6 weeks to spare anymore, and honestly even if I did I have too many ambitions to pause life for that long, but I've told myself to at least try to go whenever I can, for however long that may be.

Maybe one day I'll go and turn those tiny DVR tapes into DVD's and make a proper short film out of it. Maybe I'll write a book. For now, all I can show you is Tehran today, summer 2017, which in my opinion, is still worth something more than what you might have seen of it until now. 

Follow along for more on the go videos and such on my instagram @shabferdowsi.