October 27, 2016

Voice Like A Lullaby

“Get away from that door.” My mom had just gotten home from work and walked upstairs.
I ignored her. If she really meant it she would try again.
“I said get away from there. You’re going to disturb her.” She was whispering forcefully.
I tried my luck one more time. I couldn’t look away. What was she doing in there under that sheet? With those beads? That ancient looking book? Is that a compass? Why is she muttering to herself? What is she muttering to herself? She stands up. Arms in the air. Kneels down. Forehead to the ground. Repeat.
“I said go downstairs!” The whisper was gone, her voice clear, her hand on my shoulder physically pulling me away. “Now!”

I saw my grandmother kneel down again, clutching a string of beads, her head to the floor one last time, before I gave in and slunked then trotted downstairs- two steps at a time, straight to the fridge for a banana.
“What is she doing in there?” I asked my mom ingesting half the banana in one bite.
“Do you have to eat like an animal? You’re going to choke.”
Finishing the second half of the banana, I asked, “No really, what is she doing in there?”
“She’s praying,” my mom had shoved me out of the way and was starting to dig in the refrigerator, pulling out an assortment of boxed and sealed left-overs for dinner.
“Praying? What does that mean?” I was perplexed. I had no idea what to do with information that my grandmother who had arrived from Iran late the night before, and was going to stay with us for six months, who I hadn’t seen since I was five, I was seven now, who had brought two massive suitcases that stood full and unopened upstairs, who was my dad’s mom, was upstairs praying.

I had out run my mom from the car earlier to set eyes on Maman Soodie, only to find her in a trance, under a sheet apparently praying.
“Why are you ignoring me?” I needed answers.
My mom was busy pouring an eggplant stew into a pot for warming and setting a pot to boil for rice.
“It means that she is talking to god, by reciting lines from the Koran.”
God? Koran?
“She will do that five times a day when she is here and I need you to not stand at the door gaping at her. It’s a very private act and she doesn’t need you disturbing her.” She started to cut some radishes like flowers and throw them into a blow of cold water to help them open up.
“I wasn’t disturbing her. I was just standing there, quietly watching.” I stole a radish and popped it into my mouth. I love the subtle spice. I stirred the stew and watched a few tiny bubbles begin to pop like a lake of molten lava.
“Can you not argue and just promise me that you won’t bother your grandmother? And go set the table. Your dad will be home soon and I want to eat as soon as he gets here. I am starving.” She handed me a stack of four plates.

Four. Not three, but four. It was so exciting to have an additional member added to our family. It had been just the three of us for so long that having another body in the house was a novelty and a treat. I didn’t know at the time how much I would learn from Maman Soodie and how long those memories would last.

“Jabiz Joon come here and let me hold you. I have missed you so much my heart has been broken.” Her voice sounded like a lullaby I recognized from years ago. She was out from under the sheet and heading toward the kitchen. Her face and her voice came rushing back to me from the time before we left Iran and came to America. From a time where we played together while she watched me when my parents were out. From a time that she was my friend, my story teller, my grandmother.
I ran to her as she sat in a chair at the dining room table. She scooped me up into her lap, hugging me tightly, rocking me back and forth.
She said a bunch of things in Farsi I didn't understand, like I was her liver, but I could feel were affectionate and then she said, “Oh how I have missed you. Tonight I will tell you the story of the Persian Prince Rostam.”
“Can you also tell me what you were saying to god?”
I noticed that she and my mom exchanged a quick look. It was fleeting, but I saw it.
“Let’s start with the fairy tales and move onto god later.”

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