I remember summer skies from our rooftop in Tehran, the Alborz Mountains peaking above clouds until eventually, apartment complexes covered them up. We spent most of our summers up there because it was the only place we were free. We, the kids, played hopscotch and even took our bikes up there. In the evenings, we’d gather on the roof, sit cross-legged on blankets as my uncle cut a juicy watermelon and he would pass around half-moon-shaped pieces. We bit out of the fruit, wiping our mouths with the back of our hands.
Sunsets were especially nostalgic and melancholy. The day’s end always made me sad. I wasn’t a grown up – I didn’t have to go to work and school was off so I don’t know why my heart was melancholy. I can still remember the smell of the air in the evenings, with the residue of the day’s meals and maybe a neighbor’s smoke from the grill, and I can see the space we held together, as free as we could be, above ground and untouchable, close to the sun, close to the moon. We were safe in a small corner of our city Tehran, where only a faint sight of dreams hung around the cotton-candy-shaped clouds. I’d watch the small alley below, the one I took to go to school; how small everything was from the rooftop. I felt like I could dream of anything. I wish I could remember what I wanted then, as a child. I think I wanted to fly. I’d watch the birds in the sky, envious of their wings. Where would we go from here?
I was 11 when we left Tehran for good. And a few years later, my mother went back to Tehran and sold the apartment. My childhood ended then; there was no longer a home to go back to. For years, I was burdened with the weight of immigration and assimilation. I desperately searched for a home to belong to. My thoughts and dreams and desires were drenched in nostalgia for that childhood, for that Iran. I stopped smiling and I hardly laughed; my mother felt guilty and I betrayed. I mourned and sadness became a part of my identity. I started to think that all good things come to an end. Little did I know how lucky I was to have escaped Iran’s prison. Of course, with time, I learned more about the country that was once mine. I no longer mourn the past, but I recall the joy and naïveté, the bliss of childhood ignorance, the bittersweet memories. Everything must come to an end.