What better way to review the past than to start with my family? I owe her my existence (or at least half of it) and her birthday is close, so first up is Dr. Asieh Yahyazadeh, my mother.
For the youngest of a big religious family growing up in a small town in Guilan, she’s come a long way. Back home in Rahimabad, she represents what you can achieve if you study hard enough; the honour student who earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry abroad and came back to claim her professorial seat at the University of Guilan. It’s tough enough to survive in a male-dominated society, let alone thrive, which is why student and colleague respect her alike.
Mom in her graduation gown. Note what a gentleman I was back then.
But I intend to talk about my mother, not a prof. So what’s she like at home? Like all mothers, kind and caring and concerned for the well-being of her kids, but more so. In fact, there have been instances when not being able to reach me on my cellphone has prompted her to call the coroner’s office! My aunts are also prone to assuming the worst in times of obscurity, so I guess it runs in the family.
She also serves as my academic angel. Maybe the teacher figure took form during my year of home-schooling or maybe over the next two decades when she kept a close eye on my scholarly performance. Needless to say, she wasn’t too happy when I dropped out of my master’s or decided not to continue my studies abroad. It wasn’t easy for me either, feeling I’d let her down, but I’m pursuing my success down another path.
No matter how grown-up she seems, there’s still a little girl inside her. I catch glimpses of it once in a while. I can imagine her running barefoot and scared through the dark alley and landing face first on the sticky fly-catchers laid out in the yard, just like she recalls it. Even now in the presence of my aunts, I can tell she’s used to being loved and cared for by the entire family for being the last. Perhaps that childish part of her is best captured in one of my fondest memories of her:
I had just been accepted at the University of Tehran, along with six classmates from Rasht. We’d registered and all that remained was to pack our stuff up from home and move into our shared dorm room. The night all five roommates-to-be were finally ready to board the bus and set off for Tehran, our families came to bid us farewell.
Being the sensitive woman she is, my mother had a hard time letting me go. After all, I was moving to the big capital hours away and she wasn’t going to be there to look after me. I was nervous too, but the excitement of starting college was greater. My main concern was her not making a dramatic scene before my departure. I tried my best to calm her down before saying goodbye and taking my seat.
The bus was running late and still stationary. Delay is typical with Iranian busses, so I started chatting away with my high-school friends. Suddenly my friend stops and as I follow his gaze down the aisle, I see my mother standing at the front of the bus. She’s barely controlling her tears, her eyes still wet, and as she lifts her hand rather shyly to point me out to the bus steward, she says “that’s my son.”
It was the cutest thing ever. Just how you’d expect an innocent child to ask a grown-up to intervene and solve a problem too big to handle. I forgot the urge to look macho in front of my friends and walked towards her with a huge smile on my face. I loved her so much in that moment that I put up no fight when she said she wanted to come along. We walked back down the aisle and she purchased a seat close by. I still remember the delight in her face after triumphantly securing a couple hours more together.
If I can grasp unconditional love, it’s because of my amazing mother. We don’t see eye to eye on many matters, but that’s natural, right? At the end of the day, no matter how deep our disagreement, she’ll always be my source of affection and hopefully, I’ll be hers.
Not always eye to eye, but always heart to heart