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  • By the time I got to Iran my mother-in-law was older and frail and living in the city of Ahwaz with my husband's youngest sister. But my husband's older sister, Tooba, still lived in the original family home where my husband grew up-- in the ancient city of Dezful, just north of Ahwaz. I was lucky enough to be able to visit there several times before the structure, more than 200 years old, was sold because it sat right in the middle of what was now a business district and the property had become valuable. Nobody seemed to lament the fact that it was being sold except me. Iranians are pretty remarkable and resilient when it comes to doing what needs to be done and then moving on in the name of progress.

    In its time, the family home was considered one of the best houses in town. The interior was graced by a large tiled courtyard with a shallow reflecting pool in the center. The home itself was massive, built in a U shape around the courtyard. I was given the grand tour by my husband who also took the opportunity to tell me stories of his childhood.

    "This is the room where my baby sister Nahid was born, I remember holding my ears because I didn't want to hear mom screaming in pain."

    "See this scar? This is from when I jumped on my mother's back when she was in this kitchen chopping vegetables for stew and she instinctively brought the knife up to protect herself. She whirled around and saw it was only me but then she saw the deep gash on my hand. That's when she fainted. What a day! I was in big trouble."

    "This is the room where my oldest brother Ahmad and his wife stayed when they were first married until they had enough money to move into their own place."

    "This is the roof where we slept on summer nights and told stories and played games."

    "This is the cellar where we were supposed to take naps on summer afternoons to stay out of the heat. I waited until everyone fell asleep and would sneak out most afternoons to go swim in the river with my friends. One time I got caught in a whirpool. It was a miracle I survived that."

    The "cellar" looked more like a cavern to me. The steps had been carved out of rock and were steep with no guardrail. I was terrified of them but the boys had races to the bottom and then back up again.The house itself was like a museum. It seemed positively ancient and to a girl from Los Angeles it seemed as though I had somehow slipped through a time warp into another age entirely.

    Our childhoods could not have been more different. I was a bookworm and a stay at home type. I grew up in the American suburbs. My husband, on the other hand, was a risk taker and an adventurer and grew up in this ancient city in this ancient house. He traveled half way around the world to find me. Embracing this strange new world was the least I could do to return the favor.
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