Back in 1978, the summer after kindergarten...and a whole baseball season after I fell in love with the Yankees, (Reggie) my mom decided to make the first of one of many moves in our "gypsy"life. She left my dad as he was away. We packed quickly and put everything in her Dodge Charger. We moved to a city about 2 hours away from the reservation. She had decided that she was going to attend college that fall to better our lives. I was 6 and my brother was 4. We lived in a one bedroom apartment but the utility closet was big enough for bunk beds so we "Made" our own bedroom. I was extremely shy and because we moved 3 times within that first year, with 3 different schools, it didn't help my shyness. It was also the first time I hated myself for having dark skin. Most of the times I was the only Native in class and was called things like "dirty indian" from kids, whom I know now learned it from their parents. Really what 1st grader says these things? I withdrew to be even more shy than I had before. I was very unhappy.
During this hectic first year in our new adopted "gypsy" lifestyle. Something happened that changed my life forever and I overcame my unhappiness.
My mom met Behshid...he is pictured there second from the left in the white. He was an Iranian student. Those are his friends, all my "uncles" I grew to know and love every one of them.
While they were in college here in America, they watched TV constantly, Iran was going through a Revolution and every one of them wanted to go back. This was 1978, when the Islamic Revolution was one of the main topics on television. I know many of the guys were worried about relatives. In January 1979 the Shah went into exile and Ayottollah Khomeini took over in April.
The following is a little history I learned...with age.
What most don't know about the Shah, and I found out later in life. He took reign from his father in 1941. His tenure started off wrong with insurgency and unrest. He was a weak leader who played favorites. The CIA and British decided to bolster his power as a dictator that was pro-west. After pretty much giving him an option of we're taking over with or without you, he opted for with. With U.S. support he stabilized the country. Also exporting millions and millions of dollars in oil.
Iran's government had a democratic constitution back then, but because of the rising number of opponents, he took on a more imperious role. He denied freedom of speech and human rights in order to keep the oil pipelines open and flowing. As the oil revenues soared, they left a huge amount of lower class and poor ready for a revolution. He developed cancer and eventually went into exile in 1979. While in exile he went to New York, where Iran demanded his return to face trial. Rather than wait for an international legal proceeding, militants seized the U.S embassy on November 4, 1979...please remember this date, taking 90 hostages. Some were released but 54 were held for 444 days. So thats what that was all about, I always wondered but never understood it until later.
At this time in my life, I really had no idea what was going on. Before Behshid left for home in the summer of 1979. We had done many things as a family, when I say family, I mean also all his best friends. We had gone fishing, even ice fishing....cooked huge meals...which are eaten on the floor. I spent quiet an amount of time in my childhood eating on the floor. It is not as barbaric as some may think. A huge tablecloth is laid down and everyone sits around it. The food is then passed around. OH the food,...I can smell the spices to this day. I try to make some dishes, out of memory and I have a dear friend who shared some recipes with me. This may have been where I developed such a taste for vegetables. I know it is where I developed a taste for rice. To this day my children and I eat more rice than anything. I hardly ever buy potatoes.
When Behshid left that summer of 79, he went home to a whole new Iran, one under an Islamic Republic. To a future and country he was unsure of. He had asked my mom many times to marry him, and she always declined. (of course I didn't know this until later) when he left, he left the question up in the air. I am not sure exactly when it was, maybe late September or so....she called him and said yes. When I think of it now, I think it was after the death of my Aunt Cathy, who at age 15 died due to a drunk driving accident. I am not sure if that had anything to do with it, but we were then sent to my grandmothers house to stay while my mom flew halfway around the world to get married.
When she speaks now of the times in France, it is almost like out of a book to me. She went to the Eiffel Tower....walked along the river. Ate bread and cheese, and drank wine. After they spent some time in Paris she flew to Iran to meet his family. About 2 or 3 weeks after she was there the U.S. Embassy was invaded and the hostages were taken. This messed up her plans for a 6 week vacation, and i didn't see my mother again until April of the next year. She tells me of the beauty of Iran and I seen from the pictures she took. Cameras weren't permitted in some places but she snuck and took some anyway. She brought me back books and trinkets. Behshid soon followed her back and we grew up after that in the country. He taught me of the power of books, of the power and beauty of nature. The wonderful love of food. I used to stand around and watch him cook. They stayed married for 2 years after this. Then my way of life ended with my Iranian stepfather. I cried so hard when she told me of the divorce. I didn't understand what and why. I think they were both unhappy. We lived out in the country on the reservation. He could not find employment anywhere as an engineer on the reservation. He did find employment in Texas, and I think that is where the marriage ended. I seen him once after that, at the mall in a record store...before he could see me I ran out of there and found the nearest restroom so I could cry, for all those days that I knew I wouldn't see again.
He is back in Tehran, and only in the past year we have been able to keep contact. He doesn't like email....he is such a nature lover I am sure he would rather be outdoors digging rocks or gardening. And it is almost impossible to send any letters out in this day and age through international airmail. I tell you he wasn't in my life for a long time, but he has left such an impact on me. Besides teaching me the importance of reading, and to embrace my own culture, he taught me an awareness and appreciation for the world and what is happening in it.
To this day I am so fascinated with the Persian culture. I love the food, the artwork, especially the miniaturist's. I love the music and received some from a dear friend on my birthday. I love learning of the mysticism and gnosticism, and the proverbs. I love the poetry of Hafiz. I look at pictures of the country all the time...I see the beauty of the village in the mountains, or the architecture in the city, even the paintings and tile work. It is one of my passions in my life. Iran. Though I know I will probably never go.