My Mother

Illustration: Beatrice Toreborg

My Mother

By: Natalie Karimi

24th of April 2023

Old people’s music dehydrates my soul. Luckily, everytime I visit my grandmother, she doesn’t play any music, instead tells me stories about how I was a chubby child; in the most loving way, of course. 


“You loved to eat when you were a baby. Half an apple, half a banana and a whole bowl of ash.” 

That is how my Maman Samireh always starts her stories about me; I love it. Her thin brown eyebrows raise towards the gods, her forehead expanding, shaping her face into a circle. The emphasis in her voice makes me think I am equally her child as my mother is. A smile that grows as she explains how irresistibly cute I was, and how she surprised my parents by piercing my earlobes when I was a few months old. Stories that I only hear from her and only she enjoys telling. 


“My hands look like yours,” I say with a smile that makes my left dimple peak. 

She takes my small, baby hands and places it in her own baby hands with wrinkles, showing how hard she worked throughout her lifetime. That is her way of saying I love you. She has plenty of grandchildren, yet each and everyone of them feel equally as special. 


“I have a daughter that not even the king has; there is no match for her beauty. The moon isn’t as beautiful as she is.” 


A song that echoes in all Persian houses to serenade the daughter of the family. Maman Samireh loves to remind me that the song was specifically written for me, even though we both know her maman used to sing it to her too when she was a little girl. Education has always been important to Maman, since she never had the privilege to receive one, she makes sure every child in the family goes to school. She also has her grandchildren’s future careers mapped out; I should be a pediatrician because, according to her, I am the best babysitter amongst my cousins. 


“And your sister is never afraid to put anyone in their place, so she will study to be a lawyer.” 


She has a plan for all of us. 

I felt as worthy as the gold on a bracelet given to a child at birth. The one that wrapped itself around my wrist, then slithered like a snake across my hand, with a ring attached that hugged my finger. A kitchen that smelled of green herbs, beans and my favorite food, ash. Each ingredient of the soup touched my nostrils and made my mouth watery, already tasting the flavor. With a hand resting on her hip, slouched her body weight on one leg whilst the other hand stirred the savory food. Her shoulder-length hair that curled at the end was the exact same style as long as I remember. 


After supper I took a shower and as always, twirled my wet hair into a towel, folding it like a bird’s nest on my head. 


“No, no! You will get a fever if you walk around with wet hair,” she burst out and took out a white hairdryer. 


Her soft, fragile fingers danced between my hair strands as the warm gust of the blow dryer made my scalp feel like it was being massaged. The only time I felt loved without me asking for it. Aroma of burning hair graced my nostrils and heated my scalp as I realized my hair was all dry. As I stood up from my kneeling position on the red, textured Persian carpet, an old black and white picture of my grandmother and grandfather looked down upon me. Neither of them looked happy in that picture, there were no frowns either though. A blank stare into the camera, my grandfather’s hair swept to one side, neatly combed as his young, bushy eyebrows grew on his face. My grandmother had the same eyebrows as my mother does now, thin and slightly choosing to shape downwards at the tail and climax at the top, reaching up to her forehead. 


“Nati, sit down and watch tv,” She orders me, never wanting me to help her in the kitchen. 

“I can vacuum clean the living room,” I answered her, politely denying her order. 

“Absolutely not, you just showered. Do you want to get yourself dirty again?” 

“No, but I don’t want you to clean all by yourself.” 


She handed me a damp tablecloth and told me to wipe the tv stand. The dust terrorized the air and made it hard to breathe. A ticklish feeling seared through my throat, making me want to gurgle. When I finished and handed back the tablecloth, like a teacher, she checked my work and handed it right back to me. 


“There is still dust.” 


And right back to the kitchen she went. A kind, stern lady that you could not have your way with. I didn’t even bother to explain that there was dust in the air and settled right back down on the tv stand; after all I offered to help, not complain. Ten minutes later, cut up melons and pineapple piled themselves on two plates on the living room table. The sweetness of honey melon sold from pickup trucks outside of the apartment where the middle aged man yelled “Melons, sale only for today.” Even though we all knew they were lying with the word “sale”. There is never a sale, just inflation.


I hope to feel that way towards my future grandchildren. The love she shows is a reflection of who she once was as a mother of ten. When my little cousin throws a tantrum and slams the door shut, my grandmother is the one to calm her down. I wonder how she showed affection towards my grandpa, Agha Haji. His real name was Ali but all the grandchildren, at least the older ones, called him Agha Haji. The younger generation of my cousins have never met him, so they refer to him as Agha whenever he is mentioned in a conversation. I do not remember the affection Agha Haji once showed me, I was nine years old when he passed away from cancer. They say that the first few years of a child’s life is important; they build connections with the people taking care of them. Whenever I hug my Maman Samireh, it is like I am another one of her daughters. A mother that took care of me the first year of my life. 


“Yek dokhtar daram shah nadare, az khoshgeli ta nadare, soorati dare mah nadare.” 


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