We left Iran in the late summer of 1978. My American grandmother was dying of brain cancer and had never met my baby brother. In actuality, it would take too much emotional surgery to cover all the events of our leaving, but what is relevant is that I had absolutely no idea we would never be returning. I never said goodbye to anyone. I was plucked out of my home and plopped down halfway around the world. A wound will eventually heal, but it leaves a scar.
My mother, brother, and I arrived in a small town in upstate New York where I was enrolled in the small local middle school and we tried to go about spending time with and taking care of my grandmother.
Some months passed and our time in this small town was over. We needed to settle someplace and my mother needed to get a job, so we moved to Maryland where she had a good friend and jobs were more plentiful. I was enrolled in the local public school where I was able walk to school. I was quickly classified as a complete goofball. I was ignorant of American teenage ways. I still felt like a child and everywhere I turned it seemed that all the girls in the seventh grade smoked cigarettes and had a
bad-ass mean-tempered air about them.
With my hair in neat braids, I proudly wore my favorite outfit: green polyester pants decorated with Holly Hobbie around the cuffs. As soon as I discovered that Montgomery Wards sold Holly Hobbie bedding and pillow shams I begged my mom for the set. I loved Holly Hobbie! Perhaps it was the Little House on the Prairie influence with the bonnets, aprons, and bloomers. My fellow seventh graders at Sligo Middle School didn’t, however, share my appreciation for Holly Hobbie. They made fun of me because I was different. I felt like a fish out of water; I felt like a foreigner. This was the age of skin-tight Jordache jeans and platform sandals. I wore Holly Hobbie-clad green polyester and cheap tennis shoes.
At the end of one school day I was walking in the hall with an armload of books when some of the cigarette-smoking-Jordache-jean-wearing kids tripped me. I went down face first and my books and papers went flying all over the place. Not one person stopped to help me. Not even one of the teachers. And yes, there were teachers in the hall.
The mother-bear instinct runs deep and strong in my family. My mother always believed me and I never felt the need to hide anything or exaggerate anything, so when she saw my tear stained face and my broken spirit she marched to the school and gave the principal a piece of her mind. When my mother gave someone a piece of her mind . . . mmm . . . mmm . . . mmm . . . Lord have mercy.
The next day she began to investigate private Catholic schools. Since all the students look equally ridiculous wearing the Catholic school uniform, it was my saving grace!
To be continued . . .