my mother showered me with stories of growing up in iran when i was a child. she created a magical space in my mind of a country i was born connected to, but felt i would never see. i wanted to visit to desperately when i was younger, but i knew that i would not be able to experience the iran she knew, the one she described to me like a fairytale.
and though her iran doesn’t exist anymore, 35 years after she and her family left for good, i find myself on a journey to her homeland. i’m arriving tonight. landing in a foreign airport in a land i somehow also call home, though i don’t even know what that means in this dimension.
as i exit the airport and take off on the highway, i find myself looking for signs of something new yet familiar, something uniquely persian. so far, i could be anywhere in the world that i’ve been to a dozen times.
it’s dark and as i squint past street signs and lamp posts, my imagination fills up with ideas of what could be there. i search for hints of what life is like, looking for billboards that reveal what would appeal to people living in tehran. i still see nothing.
the darkness feeds my curiosity. will the steaming rice and chelo kabob satisfy my expectations? will the museums full of jewels and relics of a rich history be as abundant as other visitors have described? will the beauty of the people reveal any hints of heartache from decades of oppression?
all i know for now, as our car speeds through the highway, is that i am so deeply overwhelmed with an emotion that i can’t identify. an emotion that i know will intensify as i stroll through the streets where my family once lived, as i stumble onto spaces that they knew so well, as i experience a parallel iran that lives atop the one they once knew. and maybe at some point during my stay here, that emotion will give me the chance to love this land as home.