Mom´s  Son

I was brought up in the first family. We were a dozen of scrofulous children. My mother was a silent birthing machine used to its full capacity, giving birth on almost a yearly basis. I always wondered how her body can endure all the labor she went through. I had the impression her breasts were becoming bigger and bigger because she breastfed all her children. She never suffered from any breast problems or cancer. She was lucky for there was no medical treatment available anyway.

All my brothers and sisters slept in one room and my parents and grandparents in another. My mother and grandmother were always at home as if they were part of the stationary or furniture. Sometimes my mother would ask me to go to one of her friend families to tell them she was coming that afternoon for coffee. I usually went with her and enjoyed the female gossip. I also liked seeing all the women move around with their big child-bearing hips, bottoms and breasts. We used to wear plastic slippers or go about barefoot. We also stayed dressed in our pajamas the whole day. On Thursdays my mother heated the bathroom and boiled water for us to wash ourselves by burning any thing that came within her grip.

We had running water and electricity but it was often cut. There was only one old socket and a water pipe. I remember my father found the trick about the electricity meter. He just placed a piece of paper behind the wires and the meter stopped running. About ten days before the meter man came he removed it. The meter man never found out. He must have thought a family like ours didn’t really need much electricity. He was a short fat man with glasses. Whenever he came to our house at the end of a month we offered him tea and a stool to stand on to read the meter which was fixed high. It took him some time to stand on the stool. Then he would lean backwards and bulge his belly forward with beads in one hand ready for the meter. He would take a fix on the meter a long time till he found out what to write. I thought it was a very difficult job which needed a lot of intelligence for it looked as if he was doing some kind of scientific research.

Anyway we had no vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, washing machines and so on. My poor mother used to do all those chores alone in addition to giving birth. She used to give birth at home. A woman or maybe even a midwife came to help her. My father worked somewhere. We didn’t even know what he did and where he went. He made all the decisions himself and my mother was very proud of him. At the end of the month he got his money paid cash on the barrelhead. No banks existed so we didn’t even know what a bank was.

I always thought of seeking refuge somewhere else far away from my family or even starting my own family. I took the next best opportunity and left. During my studies I met a girl and we decided to get married. The registry office however was skeptical. They wanted to be sure I was single and asked for a certificate. I didn’t know what to do for I could not simply present my family with a fait accompli. So I wrote I was going to complete my studies and I needed a certificate which proved I was unmarried. I got the certificate but they were wondering why on earth I needed a certificate for that. We went back to the registry office and presented the important document. On the eve of our wedding we smashed a lot of crockery to bring good luck.

My wife was always busy. She had an appointment diary. Playing musical instruments, going to yoga lessons, theatre, opera and art galleries… In spite of numerous psychology books in her home office she always thought her psyche needed therapy. She started to ask questions like: who am I? Then she thought art or music therapy can help her. I provoked her once by asking: Do you know who you are now after reading all those psychology books? Anyway we had a problem. She wanted to start a family but her family idea was two children only. However the statistics said we were entitled to have one and a half plus a cat and a dog. I had to discuss every little thing with her and get her permission. She made the important decisions for us because she thought I always made a mess of everything I laid my hands on.
Once when we were living in a flat in the city I noticed the city tram took the electricity from the power lines above, which were fixed to some houses. One line was fixed to our house next to our bedroom window. I remembered my father’s trick with the meter so I thought I could get power at least for our heating from it. I told my wife about my idea. She got so angry that we nearly got divorced because of that. She said it was theft. She went on: Besides this is heavy current. It will kill you. Now I know what it means to be married to a camel driver who was born behind the bush.

Our daughter was born in hospital. My wife was taken there a week before and stayed there a week after. Anyway when our daughter was born she had her own room with thousands of presents and toys. In fact most of our money was used to give her a proper upbringing. Then five years later our son was born and my wife said: He must have his own room. Soon our house was full of children’s toys, clothes, and shoes. The shoes were the most expensive. My wife thought our children must have their own bank accounts too. She said we need to save money for them for when they were eighteen they would need it to cover the costs for a driver’s license or pay for their studies.

One day an officer from the Government Office of Youth Welfare came to our house because our neighbors reported that I sometimes smacked my children when they were naughty. Soon I felt it was a drag to greet them when I met them on the stairs. Whenever I heard their footsteps I waited inside until they disappeared. Although I couldn’t t see our neighbors particularly the old ladies and gentlemen they were permanently watching us behind their curtains. No car accident could escape their vigilant eyes.

We had a shower everyday and occasionally twice a day depending upon the weather. To me that was water pollution but my wife insisted I was stinking. She had a very sensitive nose. Sometimes I thought she even wanted me to have an extra shower every evening before going to bed. We usually panicked and we were nearly paralyzed when there was a power cut even for ten minutes. My wife went to the doctor’s on a yearly basis to watch her cholesterol level in blood and check her breasts for fear of cancer. She had to do a mammography test. I noticed her breasts become smaller and smaller and once a doctor remarked that women suffered from breast cancer because they didn’t breastfeed. Children consequently lost interest in women’s breasts and men’s interest rose. My wife also started losing weight fanatically. I think she weighed less than our little daughter. I came to learn all types of diets but those I remember are Cambridge, Hay’s diet and Weight Watchers.

Our children did very well at school and had their own house keys when they came back. Some people called them key or day-nursery children. Sometimes we had to pay a babysitter. All days of the week after school were fully booked. One day was piano lessons, or sport the other day was art….. They had thousands and one hobbies. Then my daughter developed interest in riding horses. She insisted on having riding lessons. When we asked her what she wished to have as a present for her birthday she said a horse.

We usually visited my parents-in-law on the first Christmas day. We arrived for coffee and cake in the afternoon. They gave us a lot of money for our children because they had no time for them. They often went on holiday... After two or three hours we said goodbye, see you next year. My wife came to me one day and said: My mother is getting very old and I think we should take her to an old people’s home. She lives far away and nobody can look after her. I said: let her live in our house but she refused categorically. No, she said: My mother needs medical care nonstop. The poor woman was at last taken to a home against her will. Once during a visit when I was alone with her she said: You know what, I often envy your first family. There were no homes for old people. Old people are just a nuisance here. In fact the existence of such a house is an insult. There is no meaning left in family in our society. It has already ceased to exist. I said: yet my generation wants to flee the first family and come to the second. My old family doesn’t exist anymore.

Apart from the topic of families, there are these conspicuous attempts on your part at being adult - or claiming full responsibility for the road not taken (have you read the poem by Robert Frost?). The first family made you feel entrapped - forever mom´ s child (you had to ask for you’re her/their permission to marry, as though they didn’t t trust you as an adult). In the second family, your wife is the adult and has the unofficial commando over the household.

Looking on the bright side of things, the first family is poor, but its identity resides in the being together, bonded as a family. It is, of course, impossible to think of love and a leaky roof at the same time, but I sense a strong loving bond in this first family. On the other hand, the glue that holds the second family together is the having : lots of stuff for the kids which only spoil them and get them clamoring for more as they grow up. "Having" as a substitute for real love, or true happiness.

Life is an endless quest for true happiness, freedom and peace of mind. Henry Miller said: "If there is to be any peace, it will come through being, not having." I believe he means through being true to yourself and your own feelings. Have you really been that? There is also a quest for an identity, which both you and your wife (despite her many psychological books) have been struggling to settle. And this is true of everyone; we are all, ever since birth, searching our mind and soul for an answer to the troublesome question: "who am I?"- an answer that will mean the end of this restless journey and the beginning of happiness. It is as though happiness were a deadline: once you know who you are, you ll be happy. What if there are several answers to this question? What if there isn t a clear-cut answer at all?

It seems to me as though taking "the road not taken" has´ t made the desired difference in your life. A compulsive need for happiness has put you on an endless flight, but I m not sure from whom, or from what. Is it from your past? Is it from your own self? They say that one must dive deeply into oneself in order to find one s true identity, not flee from it. Or that freedom is found simply by allowing yourself a sense of gratitude for the peaceful moments in life. Your confusion will dissipate when you stop nursing your old hurts and start counting your blessings. But you are such a pessimist, Jamshid. Look on the bright side of life! Repeat after me: "I am blessed with my family, I have two wonderful children and a loving wife, and we are all healthy." How much more would you ask?

I lived in the same country that you lived a few years ago so I know what does you meant. Your life in Germany is much better than Middle East. There is a lot of freedom and enjoyment. I don t agree with Bianca about a happy with a glad family. The stuff is so important to live normally and to achieve our dreams like a studying, ambitions and planning.

So touchy, Dr. and by the way hi, long time since we ve met. You know I ve always believed that old days were better, easier and more beautiful, yet way more difficult. Despite the fact that "modern people" ,if I may call them, they always give a bad impression about those days. However elderly people who have lived in the past seem to have it all, they were, healthier, happier, stronger, and most of all they accept whatever life might have brought. Elderly people have to be so proud of themselves. And I so agree with your mother-in-law that these houses, where elderly are put alone, claiming that they need a special kind of treament , such houses are horrible idea, yet on the other hand they re better than let them living in streets. Shame on Modernity!!!