California Fire Revived a Painful Memory, When I Left Home...
I was looking at the fresh laundry that I folded the day before but hadn’t put away and thought to myself, this is what we use on regular basis, so they will definitely come with me… Along with them was a bag that held our passports, two back up hard disks with all our pictures, and of course our documents. I paused for a minute and asked myself: what was important enough to take?
The only thing that flashed in front my eyes was my family.
With my husband traveling for work, my son at school, and my brother’s family visiting us from Vancouver, I didn’t have other family member in San Diego. Staying home close to my son's school with my brothers family was the only sensible thing to do. I could only drive one car, my Santafe had more space. With 5 people, and a dog, I only could take couple suitcases with our essentials…
That was oddly familiar… It reminded me of the night I was leaving home to the world of unknown. The night of October 6th, 2001 when I was leaving Iran to fly to the United States.
I still remember the night vividly.
As a young women barely 20 years old, my husband and I were packing our stuff to leave our clan for an unknown future with a single entry visa. It was a struggle to fit everything in four pieces of luggage. Making a choice between necessity and memory was daunting. My dad was sitting in the corner of the couch and listening to “Mohammad Esfahani” “tonight in my heart I have a light”. He had a tissue and once in a while ran it across his face, trying to hide his tears.
My mom was distracting herself by packing what she thought I needed and both my brothers were helping her. She packed, weighed and unpacked. This went on till we were about to leave. My sister was sitting in a corner and sobbing. Every chance she got, she gave me a hug as she was storing them. I packed the gold necklace and the watch that my brothers gifted me along with my mom and my sister's perfumes in my handbag… They were small and light but had so much meaning and memory to them! A kiss on my forehead from my dad and there I left with red swollen eyes.
That night, I saw red eyes filled with tear, hearts full of sorrow but heard the most encouraging words and felt the compassion I wished for everyone to feel. I left for the world of unknowns, to the land of opportunities and went back home 6 ½ years later when my nephew was 8 months old and my second brother was married to my best friend. Those years were the hardest of my life, and I learned a lot about my inner strength.
In many ways, this packing was easy, way easier! I thought to myself packing my own stuff 17 years later in the fear of fire evacuations. I knew what could be next, I had friends, I had a job, I knew the language, the culture, and so much more…
I knew I could handle almost anything given my tested strength. And I knew anytime I wanted to tap into my support system, I could pick up my phone and call them in Iran and hear their encouraging voice.
Then I thought, except the luggage, there is no comparison! None at all. This is not hard! I'm leaving things behind. Even if my house is burned down to ashes, my new things will replace old things but nothing could replace my family...
Family is my priority!
Understanding this, calmed my nerves. My hands stopped shaking and I could pack more efficiently.
How powerful was this realization!
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by: Mehran Sorourian