Different things make you realize how fast time flies, how quickly we “grow up” (and that we never really do grow up). I have memories that remained with me as markers of places I have been, of feelings of wonder and contentment, and they involved the native plants and climate of the land.
In Tehran, most homes have a small courtyard garden: its the first thing you see when you walk through the heavy metal doors. There were roses there with a scent that could send you to heaven. I remember my great-uncle, Daii Asdollah watering his tiny garden in pajama pants, a button-up shirt and plastic sandles, a limp cigarette hanging from his mouth. My grandparents had a great big mulberry tree, and we would stand under it, holding our shirts to catch all the ripe berries and staining everything with their purply blood. Even in the busiest part of the polluted city, enormous trees lined the streets, standing so tall you had to tilt your head all the way back to see the green tops.
Outside the city, there are several lush escapes. Aabnik is one village, nestled between two mountains. In the early morning, you hear dogs barking and the jingle of goat bells. The smell of fresh bread and donkeys mingle, and when you stand at the top of the surrounding mountains and see the shadows of clouds on the ground below, you begin to comprehend how small you are.
To the north is an orange orchard where we played cow boy and cow girl games. We ran between trees while the adults strolled through citrus heaven. The villagers near-by went about their daily lives, helping their cows give birth, making cheese, harvesting. A three legged cat was a wonder to us city kids but just a humorous detail of the day to them. The simplest meal of white rice and beans was a feast to us there–with so much beauty, there was little else we needed.
Kashan is a desert city, and in the old days you satisfied your thirst with cool watermelon juice because the water was saline and chalky. Even in the baking heat, one particular garden offered cool spring water gushing out of the ground, like an oasis in a dream. Thousand year-old remains of villagers’ homes line some roads. My great grandmother lived there in a home her husband had built till her death. Chickens ran around in her small courtyard.
More than an ocean over is another world: we drove through Virginia and West Virginia’s mountains and hills to get to Granny’s house in Tennessee. She had aloe vera plants hanging in kitchen windows–Granny used them to heal the chigger bites on our ankles when we ran through the grass. She decorated her front steps with red Geraniums, and always had a basket of eucalyptus by the bathroom hallway. At breakfast, there was almost always some type of home-made jam: fig, pepper relish, strawberries. There were always dark walnuts in the corners of the back yard like huge, black tennis balls. At Christmas time, there was the tree to decorate, and even though the real thing was replaced with a fake one for economic consideration, it was beautiful to behold! 😀
When we first moved back to the States, there were grassy lawns everywhere for the first time. At the apartment complex in Virginia, there was a small thicket of trees, and when all the leaves fell and there were only trunks and scraggly branches, we’d make believe that we were running away into a mysterious forest. Our first pumpkin harvest was a blaze of big, orange Cinderella-coaches and fresh apple cider. When we got our first town house in Maryland, there was a small garden and tall evergreens in the front. There were little mossy patches here and there, pine needle havens that became a make believe forest for my dolls. There was juicy summer-time grass to run through, and at dusk lightening bugs twinkled here and there. My future husband and I climbed trails at Great Falls: the air was severely humid as it is right before a heavy summer thunderstorm. The night air was sweet, and anytime I remembered, I’d look up at the stars. My aunt, Ammeh Mitra told us once when we were kids, “the moon will be the messenger between us. When you miss us, look up at the full moon, and there you’ll see our faces looking down at you.”
Its the little things that make you remember where you were and who you are.