When I was eight or thereabouts, I lived, for the first and only time in my life, in a rich man’s house for a year. It was built in exceedingly expensive, fashionable area of north Tehran, at the foot of the Alborz mountains. It had several floors, a large garden, a swimming pool, a patio, a large sweeping marble stairway, crystal chandeliers, stained glass. Different kitchens and more than two bedrooms- nine, I remember counting, each bedroom having large floor-to-ceiling windows and porches. Before then and since then, I have lived in tiny to moderately-sized apartments, such as can be afforded by people surviving on tiny to moderate living wages. But that was a house built by a capitalist, an industrialist, who died shortly after building that house for his large and troublesome family. So much for wealth.
Anyway, during that year that I was living in that house, I remember as clearly as yesterday my grandmother, who was living with us (or rather, I should I say, we were living with her), persuading me in her gentle voice to water the plants in the garden: “naneh, every morning and every evening, I can hear those plants, thirsty, begging for water. When you water them, they thank you, I can hear them as I am saying my morning prayers, calling out to God, thanking this little newcomer girl for giving them water…” Yes, gentle reader, I was a newcomer then as I am a newcomer now, but that is a different story. Did I believe my grandmother, did I believe that the plants were calling out their gratitude of me to god? I honestly can’t remember, but what I do remember is hosing down that garden morning and evening as earnestly and rigorously as my grandmother saying her prayers.
Fast forward thirty years, a moderately-sized ground-level apartment with a strip of soil in Halifax. Thenewcomer and her family have spent $100 and planted the tiny strip with flowers and tomato plants from a local plant shop. While the Golden boy showed a lot of enthusiasm about buying plants and trowels and planting, now he has little enthusiasm for watering them.
“Golden boy, why don’t you water the plants? I did, and they were SO THANKFUL.”
The Golden boy, despite having a reputation for walking through life in a cloud of confusion, gave me an angry look: “Why are you LYING? PLANTS DON’T SAY THANK YOU!”
I paused. Really? They don’t? I mean, I know they don’t actually verbalise their gratitude, but surely my grandmother wasn’t lying?
I tried again. “Golden boy, listen to this story of when I was a child…” and I told him the story which I just narrated to you, Gentle reader, above. The Golden Boy remained the supremely unimpressed. “That was the WORST STORY ever! Plants don’t SAY Thank you!”