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By Simin Pitts
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Simin Pitts
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI was rushing to get ready to go to the Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran, the morning my daughter was taken from me. Mehrabad Airport at that time in the 1970s was a modern airport with nice restaurants and bars. I was all alone in my lonely Tehran apartment, forcing myself to get dressed, trying to throw something on, as fashion was out of the window. At the time, it did not matter if I had only one sock or two different color shoes. I could not eat at all, even though I normally ate breakfast daily. I was fighting the constant tears of a mother's grief, worrying that my daughter, Bahar, would leave before I could say good-bye. She was with my ex-husband at his mother's home.
It was 5:00 a.m., and I could not sleep at all the night before. I was like a zombie, feeling like someone tore out my heart and stepped on it. I felt weak and nauseated, ready to faint. I had to drive myself that dreadful morning, all alone except for God. A drive that usually took only thirty minutes seemed to take an eternity. All the while I was aware that I must not be late so I would not miss her leaving and never have one last good-bye. I knew I may never see her again.
I was constantly in tears, and I could not stop thinking about losing Bahar. I made many wrong turns, having to struggle to find my way back to the airport route, and only by God's help was I able to find it. From the corner of my eyes, it appeared that trees on the side of the street were running away from me, as if they knew that I was so upset and rushed to get there. Most trips to the airport before this day were usually joyful, with meeting traveling relatives once more to take home to celebrate their journeys and share stories and gifts.
It was tradition for all families to meet a visiting or departing family member at the airport. It did not matter if the trip was short or long; the whole family would go to the airport, rain or shine, old or young, to send the family member off or pick up. Tehran Airport was the one and only airport for most travelers' small trips or overseas flights. The airport was always busy and crowded, with both passengers and the passengers' families. The parking lot was usually near capacity at all times. In the '70s, airport security was almost nonexistent compared to today. There were no X-rays, no metal detectors, no scanners like we have today, and almost no restrictions on what you could carry on the plane with you.
Barbars were there to help you with your suitcases, strong men who could help you carry your luggage to the gate or to your transportation. They could be seen all over the airport, helping passengers with their suitcases for a small tip. Back then, the airport had few gates, as there were few airlines one could choose. There were four or five nice restaurants at the airport. These were not fast food or junk food but places you could get a healthy meal. I remember these restaurants served both Middle Eastern-style meals as well as European menus.
These restaurants usually provided beautiful views of the city and landscape. They were elevated, giving the patrons a bird's-eye view of the city of Tehran and surrounding area. These restaurants were a popular rendezvous for young people to meet and socialize. It was common for Tehran's locals to meet and eat at these establishments, even though they were not travelers. The food was tasty, and the atmosphere of the airport gave them a warm feeling of family. It would bring back fond memories of meeting their family after returning home from a long journey. The airport was considered a happy place for all its patrons, both travelers and guests. The airport food establishments served high-quality, fresh Persian breads and to-die-for fresh pastries that were not overloaded with sugar or fats but maintained a melt-in-your-mouth flavor.
Back then, if you left home to go out in public, it was customary to put on your dress-up clothes, and it was not considered proper to wear casual clothes such as jeans, shorts, and T-shirts. Instead, the men would put on a nice suit and tie with dress shoes. Women would put on the latest European fashion and makeup. It was in fashion back then for the ladies to wear miniskirts from Europe, along with lipstick and makeup. The ladies were often seen wearing bikinis at the pool or beach.
Instead, for the first time, I was heading to a gate of sorrow, where I would forever lose a part of me. I had cried so much that morning, the tears had left a salty, dry taste in my mouth. Somehow I made it to the airport's crowded departure lobby. I desperately scanned the area, only to realize Bahar was not to be found anywhere. I felt as if my heart was in my throat, fearful that I had lost her forever. Now I wouldn't have the chance to see her one more time, to let her know I'll never give her up and I love her, even though we were physically separated by circumstances beyond my control. I must hug her, even if only one more time.
I hoped she was not too far behind the Customs door, and I began pushing and screaming at the officers in front of that door, shouting at them that my little girl was going to France and I had to say good-bye to her. I screamed at the guards, "You don't understand. My little daughter is inside and leaving and I must say good-bye to her before she leaves!"
One of the guards barked with a mean scowl on his face, "No, it is too late, and nobody is allowed to go to Customs except the passengers!"
Somehow God gave me the courage to keep pushing, and my prayers were answered. Their military hardness seemed to melt away and give way to pity. They seemed to understand that the real strength of a mother's love goes far beyond man's law and rules. I could feel God and his angels there, helping me through one hardened Iranian guard after another. When I ran past the guards, behind the restricted door, I saw my daughter on the other side, looking back at that door. She was holding her little nine-year-old hand over her heart, hoping to see her mother. "I thought you were not coming to say good-bye to me!" she said.
I reached her and desperately hugged and kissed her many times, saying to her, "I am so sorry! I got lost on the way to the airport."
My daughter told me how her little heart was pounding so fast from fear that she would not be able to see me to say good-bye to me. I could feel her little body trembling, and I could see a deep hurt in her eyes that ripped at my own heart. There was a smell of death in that room after my daughter was taken from me with no knowledge when or even if I would see her again.
I somehow made it back to my lonely apartment and found myself looking at her empty bed and her clothes. Many tears streamed down my face all over again. That sad event forever changed my life and my daughter's life. That day is frozen in eternity, changing our lives and leaving a scar so deep that our lives will never be the same. The hurt left irreparable damage to mother and daughter that affects us both to this day. That day, I learned how it feels to be powerless and lose control of my life. Many women all over the world have experienced this pain, and we are left with a scar on our hearts, a scar so painful that I have been unable to describe it in writing until now.
My story is all too common, happening again and again to mothers and daughters all over the world. I know that without God's intervention, that sad day would have been much worse. I would have suffered a sorrow much deeper. I am thankful for God and his angels' glorious victory that day, allowing me to hug and kiss my daughter before she was shipped away.
Back in my apartment, I went straight to my daughter's room. I scanned the room and focused on her empty bed. The toys she was forced to abandon were staring back at me. I looked at her clothes, and suddenly my eyes were drawn to a doll with big, beautiful eyes, an innocent face, and black hair just like my daughter's. In a flash, I imagined the doll had tears streaming down her face. I reached out and held the doll as if it was my daughter. I began kissing and talking with the doll in my lonely desperation. I cannot explain why or how the doll made tears, only that the tears were real for me.
Chapter TwoThere is a six-year-old girl, wearing her school uniform, sitting in front of a house, waiting for any passerby to ring the doorbell for her, as she is too small to reach it. I see this same little girl standing frightened at the top of a dresser, where her father has placed her; as she was so small, she would now be visible to her father's guests. Her father asks her to recite famous poets' sophisticated poems she had memorized by heart. Her mother and aunt had taught her these rich poems. This little girl was more afraid of her father than of the precarious perch she had been placed upon by him to showcase her ability to recite poems for the delight and entertainment of his guests.
"I walked within a garden fair
At dawn, to gather roses there
When suddenly sounded in the dale
The singing of a nightingale
Alas, he loved a rose, like me
And he, too loved in agony
With sad and mellow pace
I wondered in that flowery place
And thought upon the tragic tale
Of love and rose, and nightingale
The rose was lonely, as I tell
The nightingale he loved well
He with no other love could live,
And she no kindly word would give
It moved me strangely, as I heard
The singing of that passionate bird
So much it moved me, I could not
Endure the burden of his throat
Full many a fair and fragrant rose
Within the garden freshly blows,
Yet not a bloom was ever torn
Without the wounding of the thorn
Think not, O Hafiz any cheer
To gain of fortune's wheeling sphere
Fate has a thousand turns of ill
And never a tremor of good will."
My father demanded that my brother and I be brought to his house. The house resembled a small museum, as it was filled with rare and beautiful antiques, rugs, rare books, figurines, and furniture. Her father was known by all the antique dealers by his first name, as he was a "collector" in the fullest sense. He collected everything in his life—no exceptions. His rare antique book collection was spread throughout the house and overflowed into his basement. Some of his books dated back to Muhammad's time and were in their original goatskin covers; these books were very rare and expensive. He also had a coin and stamp collection that was worthy of a king, with many rare and sought-after stamps and gold coins centuries old. My father collected antique rugs, many of them rare and exquisitely handmade. The large house was overflowing with these beautiful antique Persian rugs, with all the floors covered by them and often double-stacked, because he had run out of space! I sometimes tripped on these stacked rugs if I was not careful.
The walls were adorned with many splendid oil paintings that my father felt he should own. The paintings were one-of-a-kind and brought out the imagination of the viewer. Lastly, but just as important, was his collection throughout the large house of many handmade figurines of marble, bronze, silver, and gold. My father was very knowledgeable about flowers and had large rose gardens; he would spend time in his gardens for relaxation. He made fragrant hybrid roses of a bouquet of mixed colors. His guests and family members were dazzled with his beautiful rose garden, and he received many compliments from them, as every person found a rose they admired.
My father also had large orchard of many different fruit trees. When the trees were in bloom, they were adorned with many colorful blossoms. In season, they produced delicious, fresh, organic fruit; family and friends shared the harvest. My father acquired his many properties by purchasing vacant lands and then developing them first to raise their value, later selling them for a large profit. He soon amassed great wealth from his land developments. In his younger days, he was a colonel in the Shah's army, where he worked as a veterinary doctor. He was also given the responsibility by the Shah to lead many key departments. My father was the author of many books, and he was also known for his translations of books.
My younger brother Babak and I were brought from our grandparents' house to our father's house by Tooran, a petite young nanny, every weekend. Tooran had lost her own baby, and she mentally adopted my brother and me. She was fonder of my little brother than me—as was the tradition of that time. Tooran had a very light complexion that matched our fair skin. Often she would take us on walks in the city, and passersby would assume that we were her own children. Every day we passed a shoeshine man, who would always say the same words: "Pretty girl, nice boy."
I became embarrassed by that, because suddenly every head on the street would turn toward us. I tried to hide behind Tooran's chador, and every day I hoped that the old guy would not be there. Tooran wore a light brown wig to conceal her baldness, which was due to unknown circumstances. She would always hide it from everyone, as it was a great embarrassment to her. She wore a starched white scarf over her wig to keep the wig in place and pinned the scarf with a safety pin under her chin. Over that scarf she wore a nice, white cotton veil with some flowers printed on it, which we call "chador" in Persian. She was draped with her wealth in gold jewelry. She was adorned with gold necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and gold coins. The jewelry was mostly heavy and large, worn as her way to feel worthy. She would use all of her salary to purchase her jewelry, as her food and room were taken care of by my mother. Tooran had to bring all of her gold pieces with her in her handbag wherever she would go.
Tooran told my brother and me bedtime stories which were often about kings and queens. She had living quarters with the other servants and maids and a cook whose husband was the butler. My childhood memories transported me temporarily from the loneliness and despair of losing my daughter.
Chapter ThreeMy father married sixteen times and had thirteen children. His first marriage took place when he was very young. He divorced her in a short period of time because of his father's disapproval of that marriage. His second marriage was to a daughter of a famous army general whom his father had recommended. He had two sons from that marriage. One died in a motorcycle accident as a teenager. My father was an army officer and was sent to Paris, France, by Reza Shah, king of Iran in that time, where he was assigned a special training.
My father left his wife and son in Tehran but took his youngest half-brother, who was still a child at only twelve years old. While in Paris, my father became attracted to a beautiful twenty-five-year-old French violin teacher. She held an advanced degree in music from the Paris Conservatoire. They fell in love. Her name was Madeleine, and she became my father's third wife, marrying him in Paris.
After living in Paris for three years, my father, his French wife, and their son and his brother went back to Iran by ship, train, and car. His wife was carrying her second baby. She had not been told by my father about either of his previous Persian wives or children. The Persian wife and her children had not been told about the French wife and her children, even though they were still living at my father's house. My father had ordered his younger brother not to disclose the existence of his previous wife to his French wife. His younger brother, still a child, became allies with the French woman.
My father, with his new French wife and children, came back to his inherited father's large house, which was a combination of several houses joined together. Shortly thereafter, the French wife asked my father's younger brother to introduce her to the tenants of my father's houses. She was shocked when she was introduced to my father's still-married Persian wife and her children. For the first time, the two women were face to face, each in a state of shock to learn of the other. This revelation turned the whole house into a disaster zone of confusion and uproar.
The French wife screamed in French at my father's young brother, "How could this have happened to me? Why did my husband lie to me? Why didn't you tell me earlier your half-brother is married? What am I going to do with my life?" Tears were streaming down her cheeks. Her face was flushed pink in frustration. She yelled, "Answer me!" at the younger brother.
Excerpted from Rose Petals by Simin Pitts Copyright © 2012 by Simin Pitts. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“Rose Petals” is, to me, a tale of revelation. What the author has gone through emotionally, to reveal the hidden facts of ruthlessness of certain Iranian men in their marriage and family practice, is quite admiring. As a mother, wife, and daughter, I sympathize with the author. As a woman I salute her courage. My intuition tells that there was still more that she could have said, but for the sake of her family members she held back. We need more women with this kind of boldness. I highly recommend this book
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He purred and intwined their tails. Butterpelt