…I pretend to be looking at myself in the huge dresser mirror, making last minute adjustments to my make-up. In fact I am staring with familiar exasperation at my mother, whom I can see reflected behind me in the mirror, lying on her crumpled bed, her wild crazy hair spread out behind her. One hand she drags slowly through her hair, an annoying trick she has inherited from Grandmother. The other is holding a dirty tattered old paperback, with the usual pictures of bloody knives on the cover. For all her constant bragging about her graduate degree in English literature and her non-stop references to Shakespeare, as if her were her favourite uncle or something, I swear I have never seen her read anything apart from cheap British mysteries.
She senses my irritation, or perhaps her wrists just started aching – she’s always complaining about her arms and back and wrists. She drops the book and looks critically at my outfit.
“All this- just to see Angelina?”
-“What kind of stupid outdated comment is that? I’m not supposed to wear make-up and nice clothes because I’m going out with a girlfriend? As Aunt would say, totally the kind of thing Grandmother says all the time.”
Mother doesn’t answer- she giggles and says “Do you remember that crazy peasant hat Angelina’s mom wore to the school evening back when you were both in grade three, in Inglis Street Elementary? Oh my God! That thick white elastic band!”
-“Yes Mom. You seem to be really traumatized by the hat, you haven’t stopped talking about it even though it was fifteen years ago.”
Silence. She moves to pick up her book again, and I have an urge to swipe it out of her hand. “Why don’t you come and get a drink with us? Angelina would bring her mom if you come.”
She doesn’t bother to look at me. “We have a Skype date in 30 minutes.”
A surge of jealousy sweeps through me. I hate it when she skypes with her brother and sister without telling me. Irrational, but true. My aunt and uncle are, like, my favourite people in the world. I love it when we all Skype together, and I simply can’t understand why my mother insists on skyping with them behind my back.
My aunt is a professor of English Literature in Shiraz University, and my uncle works on gas pipes or something in Norway. She’s single, he’s divorced. Together with my mom, they all act like it’s a major tragedy of their lives that they don’t live together in the same city, but as my Grandmother says, none of them are prepared to sacrifice two minutes of their career to at least go to Tehran and visit their parents and youngest brother- who still live there, more often. Let alone live in the same city. A couple of years ago, my other grandmother, my dad’s mother died and he went completely batshit insane. The only person who can stand him now for more than two seconds is my younger brother. Last year, he dropped out of Dalhousie and moved back to Tehran to live with him. My mother acted as if she was going to die, screaming and raving like a madwoman, cursing her mother-in-law for dying (as if it were the poor woman’s fault!) and ruining her life “for a second time”, as she said- the first being our move to Canada twenty years ago. Anyway, Golden Boy flew to Tehran, and mother stayed right here in Halifax and recovered after a couple of martini nights at her fave bar with her weirdo friends. Which I didn’t go. BTW. I can’t stand her awful friends and that horrible self-righteous way they have of talking, as if they are so right and everyone else is so wrong and they have the secret to life or something.
Many years ago, my aunt- mom’s sister- moved to Shiraz, a beautiful city south of Iran. She got accepted for graduate studies there. By then, she had given up trying to move to Canada, and so she went to Shiraz University. She stayed on, and eventually became a prof there. I stayed there with her a couple of summers – hot but so beautiful. And now that they have removed those crazy hijab laws, the heat is not too bad, better than the bloody Canadian cold and ice at any rate. I’m hoping to spend a year at Shiraz University as part of my PhD research on development in south of Iran, although first i need to brush up on my farsi skills, and mom says she’ll come with me too. Honestly, I don’t see why she shouldn’t as we have no-one else left here, and she’s now retired from her bloody boring job with the provincial government. So she could come, except it’s impossible to move her from this stinky basement condo in downtown Halifax she loves so much. To hear her talk, it’s as if nobody has ever bought a piece of property in Canada before. Anyway, I guess it will take more than repealing hijab laws to drag my mom to Iran- they’ll need to free alcohol, for sure, and I don’t see that happening in a hundred years…