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Creative Nonfiction

Manijeh Khorshidi,

2021

Where is Home?

A happy childhood makes you long to go back to that time and space. And that is the case with me. If it was not for my early years of a carefree childhood, I might not withstand life's unexpected and turbulent episodes.

My parents' house had a yard with a flower garden, trees, and butterflies. I see myself at four chasing life in that yard. I see myself leaving the world of the adults behind to submerge myself in nature’s offerings. Every day with different gifts. One day drops of rain, another wind, and sunshine. But they were all mine. It was my made-up world in which nature had given me ownership.

We used to have breakfast outside during the summertime. Under the shade of the trees, the singing birds were our morning companions. The jasmine bushes with their intoxicating aroma wafting through the bedroom window were my call to wake up reluctantly.

‘How is my poet’s jasmine this morning?’ I would hear Mom admiring her flowers. Then she would turn to her lilacs and roses. The conversation would go on between these two species in creation very well.

Who says we can't talk to our other peers? Plants and animals? For one, my mother knew the language very well. The alphabet of the inter-species language is love, and she knew that well. I believe she could even hear them as well too. Otherwise, why would she do this every day?

I do not know why the 'poet' dragged into the name of the flower jasmine. But certainly, I can guess. They have the most intense fragrance, and the whole summer, they are in bloom. So, it is possible that anybody with the power of reflection, charmed by this perfumed flower, would put down a word or two in an intoxicating mood. Voila! Here comes the reason for the abundance of poetry in the East.

Who can resist writing when facing inspiring emotions surging within? And the ever-present ambiance of an abundance of perfumed flowers, nightingales, butterflies, and shaded tall trees would vibrate the deepest refined sentiments in any human being, fertile ground to breed poetry.

After breakfast, I was on my own. My world was in that yard. In mid-morning, Mom would call me to go in to have my fruits. Then, again I was free, back to playing with sticks, chasing butterflies, climbing trees, picking up apples, and follow the trail of ants. Every day was a new day. When we are at a tender age, we never get tired of watching and following ants to their hole. Learning is through visual, hearing, touching, and tasting. Digesting our surroundings is through the experiential approach. And that is why they are endlessly exciting to us. We live the words of Emily Dickinson.

The Child's faith is new –

Whole – like His Principle –

Wide – like the Sunrise

On fresh Eyes –

Never had a Doubt

The call for the launch was a break to my hands and clothing, stained with raspberries and dirt. The routine of washing hands, changing clothing, and eating had to be followed by me. For as long as I remember, I spent the long days of summer in that yard.

Those days are so long ago, so far away, and yet so near and more vivid than ever. It is one of the mysteries of the age. You get closer to your childhood. And the chapters in between dwarf. You dwell in that first chapter of your life and that space more and more. Why?

Now we hear that our early childhood experiences shape our adult life: that people with positive experiences in childhood are associated with lower rates of depression. If that is true, then everyone has to have a happy childhood. What can we do about that? How can we help to bring about this given right of the youngsters?

The childhood backyard with carefree joy and happiness should be in everyone's book of life.

Back to my happy yard, for many fortunate ones, it is possible not only to travel in time and reminisce on their childhood but even to trace the physical place that provided their happy memories. I am not one of them. I never can go back to the home where I grew up. I am forbidden. I cannot return home ever.

Oh, yes, I had a happy childhood. I grew up in my twenties, and my good life continued. Then, a sudden change trembled my world with an unforeseeable speed. It was 1979 when quiet days of life transformed into days with deep anxiety and uncertainty. I had to leave the happy yard behind, the one which by now had transformed into a mature yard with new attractions.

On a cloudy day in September, with one suitcase in hand, I left my life behind.

The last thing I remember before I left the birth land is my parents’ worried eyes. As if they were watching their firstborn heading to embrace a deep fall and having no ability to help. I waved goodbye to them after a long hug. Then, I crept into the plane. In an emotional daze and numbness, I sat there immersed in the ocean of grief. I looked outside to find my parents' faces against all odds. Maybe they were able to persuade the guards to let them pass the red line. And like the movies, they could appear at the end of the plane magically.

With my eyes walking the land, I watched the plane take off to the sky of Iran. With closing my eyes, I tried to have my parents near me. An announcement came that we can release ourselves from the belt buckles. I looked out the window feeling the tears on my face. I saw clouds in vapor shape drifting freely against the blue color of the sky. It took me another time another place, seeing myself looking up through the tall trees and see the white clouds moving over my head.

By the time stewardess served the coffee, I find myself writing down these words in a small notebook: ‘I take my clouds with me.’ After all, they were my clouds as were everyone else's cloud. The ‘takers' could not take that away from me.

Can I ever go back to my land? The question lingered for the whole trip. Can I ever? What will be my destiny in an unknown space?

Focus on the present time, I told myself. Start writing about now. It is the best way to distract yourself from the blow of sudden uprooting. My hands went over the silk scarf around my neck. Mom gave this at the last minute at the Airport. Yes, I should write about things which distant me from the big elephant in the room, ‘My uprooting.' Thus, on the next page, after my claim on the cloud, I wrote, Mom, you are with me always. I do not remember what I wrote next.

With no appetite to eat anything, I was drinking coffee during the whole flight. Somehow the coffee’s effect on that day was magical. It kept me dry of tears. It worked, and I have no scientific proof backing this theory. Hours later, I landed in Germany. By the time I left the Airport, it was dark. I looked up and saw stars shinning with the same luminosity as in my land. Oh, how great this is. I have my stars here too! A moment of bliss arrived. But it vanished as quickly as it had appeared. The thought of what I am going to do now took over my being.

And that was the beginning of my intercontinental living.

Many years have passed since that flight which took me away from my birth home. And many times, I have traversed the oceans and mountains in my mind to reach my childhood home. But I can never step in that house in the world of matter. That house has been possessed unlawfully by others who claimed everything else in my life. Backed by the Islamic government, strangers pillaged, illegally possessed, killed, and disowned the rightful owners. In the case of my parents, they imprisoned them and disowned them.

What right do I have now to the home of my childhood? They claimed it and registered it in the books of their laws. Thus, they closed the door of my return to my homeland.

Reflecting on my childhood memory has sustained me during all these years of finding my way ahead. Whatever that path has been, I always remember the clouds, ants, and butterflies, but mostly the poet jasmine in our yard, a place where I am forbidden to step in.

I solace myself with these words of Thomas Hood:

I remember, I remember,

The house where I was born,

The little window where the sun

Came peeping in at morn,

If the home is where we are, then mine has been all over. The journey continues. But what is most dear to us is unpossessable by the strangers. And in my case, they could not possess or pillage my memories.

June 11, 2021 21:16

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2 comments

Eugene Pierson
22:54 Jun 23, 2021

Beautiful! I love the poetic effects of hushed resolve and silent sagacity. Nature is your true home. That's what the message, to me, appeared to be. Yet, nature can be bright and cheery, as well as dark and gloomy. May your heart be ever inspired by the days of your childhood and the ways of your true inward philosophies.

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00:00 Jun 24, 2021

Your words are inspiring.

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