Dear Grandmother

grandmother-and-grandaughter

I miss you. I know you are in the grave and even though the flesh decays, the soul escapes and flies to the sky. It is memories that remain from a person and I have many from you.

I remember the good memories when I came to your peaceful house. I was nine years old and freer than older girls. I could go to grandfather’s shop or buy bread without a boy to accompany me.

I remember I stayed with you for a week. I missed my family, but I loved to help you. I remember your small room with mud walls and four narrow mattresses placed at different angles. You had pillows in different colors and the room seemed like a rainbow. I also remember you had several shelves that you kept your plates on. There were small porcelain bowls that you used for tea. I loved to drink tea from them. It took me quite a while to learn how to drink from those without spilling.

You asked me about my home life and I answered; however, I kept some things secret. Some of your questions encouraged me to spill out secrets, but I was old enough to know when I should limit myself. You brought me raisins, jujube, dried figs, and nuts with the tea. I loved those. Even though I ate them at my house, they were extra special at your house and tasted even better.

Once you asked me to take grandfather’s lunch to him. His shop was about fifteen minutes away. I didn’t tell you that a green-eyed boy winked shamelessly at me on the way. He was around fifteen years old and worked in the shop. He had a wicked smile. I wish you could come back and pull his ears to gave him a lesson. That day on my way back to you, I had to cross the street to avoid the harassment in his wild green eyes. I was scared and embarrassed. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my mom.

Sweet memories

Dear grandmother, I loved your cooking. I loved the shorwa you made with fresh lamb, carrot, potato, tomato, and turnip. Its amazing aroma and taste is still in my mind and excites my stomach every time I remember it. I also loved the potato kuku you made. You taught me how to make an open-faced omelet. I grated the potatoes and onion because you said your hands weren’t strong enough. Then, you added three eggs and mixed all the ingredients. Into the heated oil, you poured the ingredients, then covered the pan. I was very hungry, but had to wait thirty minutes until it was ready. After it was finally done, you took the brown-roasted potato kuku out of the pan. It looked like a giant puffy muffin. I never can forget the taste; it was heavenly, especially when I ate as I sat under the sandali, the small table that you covered with the blanket. Underneath the blanket red-hot coals danced together, their warmth scattered all around to heat up my tiny cold feet.

That winter was cold and icy. Your room was dark even with the small lantern, but you and grandfather brightened the surroundings with your kindness, stories, and the prayers. I remember how you were very nice to me. Once you asked me to scrub your back while you were in the bath. You trusted the strength in my hands. Your naked body was thin and your skin was full of wrinkles, but I thought you were beautiful. Your bones were visible and your soft skin bore a few dark spots. Your hair was beautifully long with white threads. I knew you dyed your hair with henna, saying it made your hair strong.

What I didn’t like about you was when my mom came; you didn’t pay attention to me anymore. Once when my mom wanted to go to my aunt’s house alone, I begged to go with her, but you scolded and said, “sit down, you spoiled girl.”

I was ten when my older sister who was recently engaged talked to your neighbor’s daughter who was also engaged. You frowned at me and sent me out of the room. You said, “Why are you sitting here and listening to engaged girls? Come on; go out of the room. Play in the yard.” I didn’t like that. There was nothing in the yard to play with and I was curious to hear their conversations, so I secretly hid behind the window.

With sharp ears I spied on my sister and her new friend. Yes, they were talking about their fiancés. They didn’t say anything that I shouldn’t have heard. They talked about interesting things like love and the loving way their fiancés talked to them.

Bitter memories

I also hated the fact that you adored your grandsons. Even though I was very young, I could feel the discrimination and my heart ached. I remember you told my mother to keep the fruits for my brothers. I saw you gave the best portion of meat to grandfather. I remember how you forgot me when you saw my brothers or my male cousins. Sometimes you forgot me because I was little and thought that I didn’t need as much attention, but most of the time you forgot me because I was a girl and wasn’t as desirable as boys to you.

I told my mom that I didn’t like how you discriminated between your granddaughters and grandsons. My mother told me that was because you only had one son and five daughters. She told me her only brother was having fun, studying in Kabul while all my aunts and my mom worked in the field with my grandfather in Herat. So, why were boys so desirable to you? I couldn’t understand.

You loved your son and I know that when he died from a stroke, you died a month later. My mother told me that you wouldn’t eat anything; you cried and talked to your dead son. You died and left grandfather alone. It seems that you liked your son more than grandfather.

I don’t want to remember the times you discriminated against me, but sometimes they come to my mind and I promise myself that if I ever have a granddaughter, I will always adore her.

Maybe it wasn’t your fault; maybe it was the society’s fault. You should know that things haven’t changed much. There are women who cry when they give birth to a girl and have as many children as they can, until they bear a son.

I try to remember your goodness and learn a lesson from the memories that make me sad. I love you, grandmother. I miss you and your small peaceful room. I hope you have a beautiful room in the heaven close to your beloved son. God bless you. Forgive me if I wasn’t always an obedient granddaughter, sometimes I just loved to tease you.

By Mahnaz

Photo by Ilene Prusher.


Comments

  1. Mahnaz, I love the twists and turns in this piece. What an important story you tell, and you tell it so well!

  2. Geraldine says:

    Mahnaz,
    What a beautiful story about your grandmother and your relationship with her. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Mahnaz, Your story show you have a great understanding of life and a great capacity for love. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Pat

  4. What a brilliant, evocative, well-written memoir, Mahnaz. So honest, and so many rich, sensory details. The writing and the storytelling and the presenting of emotions–very well done. If given permission, I would use this piece in the classroom as a model piece, to show other writers how to write a powerful ode and remembrance. Beautiful work. Stacy

  5. Mahnaz, there are so many emotions that rose up in me as I read your letters to your grandmother. I giggled; I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, and I smiled with such pride. I love the sheer sweetness and sheer honesty that overlapped in your letters. It is beautiful sharing and a beautiful and sincere presentation of you and your grandmother and a reflection of society as a whole! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Mahnaz, there are so many emotions that rose up in me as I read your letters to your grandmother. I giggled; I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, and I smiled with such pride. I love the sheer sweetness and sheer honesty that overlapped in your letters. It is beautiful sharing and a beautiful and sincere presentation of you and your grandmother’s love and a reflection of society as a whole! Thank you for sharing!

  7. This is a very powerful and hope full story mahnaz jan.
    Thankyou very much for shearing it with us. As it has many lessons and memory in it.
    Keep the good work up. We are always supporting you.

  8. Fantastic piece! Vivid writing that shares memorable experiences. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Nancy Antle says:

    Mahnaz — I love how this piece tells us not only about the good memories but the hurtful memories as well. I especially like how you’ve learned from your grandmother’s example — how to love her grandchildren — but also how NOT to treat future granddaughters you might have. Such wisdom in the words: “I try to remember your goodness and learn a lesson from the memories that make me sad.” I also love your poignant final sentence and like to imagine your grandmother getting a good chuckle from it just as I did. Best wishes, Nancy

  10. Dear All,
    Thank you very much for your kind and inspiring comments.
    Bests, Mahnaz

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