My sisters and I moved to Canada on August 12, 1968. Funny how some dates stick in your head. My parents Landed in 1967 in time for the World Expo. They were setting things up for the rest of us in Montreal.

I knew nothing about Canada. Too buy surviving being the only coloured kid in an all white boarding school. I had no idea where the country was located and did not bother looking it up. I guessed I would have found out sooner or later.

My sisters and I lived in a campground for the summer before coming to Canada. We were in between locations. School was finished. We had to be in London to have access to the Canadian Embassy. They lost our papers at one point which created a bit of a panic. How long were we supposed to camp out? We called Canada every night around midnight to make sure mom was home from work. We called collect and updated our parents on all our activities. My father refused to accept charges one night letting us know we should call back in an hour. You have to remember we were stuck in London in a campground in a very rainy summer. We called an hour later. Turned out my mother was not home when we called the first time. What a trial.

My first impression of Canada was how big everything is here. Big cars, large roads, large buildings, large people. Everything was just so large. I was not a stranger to the cars. We had much the same cars in Iran when we lived there for a couple of years. We like our cars big. Helps that gas is really cheap in Iran. But everything was big in Canada.

My parents had rented an apartment at 22 St Joseph Boulevard in the City of Outremont. Did not mean much to us at the time. Barely knew where we were. The apartment complex was split into two building separated by the driveway leading to the underground parking lots. Driving out of there in the winter turned out to be a chore. You would back the car up to the furthest extremity of the driveway, and gun the engine hoping to make it up the hill. Never worked. You had to repeat the exercise a few times, back wheels screeching like raccoons making out. Somehow we always managed to get the car out of the driveway. This was in the days before front wheel drive cars and good winter tires.

My father could not get a job. He was 55 or 56 and everybody felt he was too old. And no Canadian experience. My sister was refused a job as a waitress because she did not have Canadian experience. What a hoot. My mother got a job right away as a finisher in a dress factory. She had gone to seamstress (?) school when we were living in Ethiopia and was quite an accomplished sewer. She even had a shop for a while while we were in Ethiopia, but gave up the venture and took a position in an all girl school teaching the students how to dress and coif. She appeared to enjoy the experience. The school was run by Princess Margaret, one of the nieces of the Emperor. She came to visit us when we lived in Iran. She died in jail after the Ethiopian revolution toppled the Emperor.

Mom worked in a factory where her colleagues were all French speaking. To the end of her days, my mother could never pronounce anything in French. She ended up being the fore-lady in the factory, adored by her workers even though not a word of French ever passed her lips. Just goes to show how much politics plays a role in our prejudices.

My mother was a funny person. Very prim and proper and proud of her appearance. Never a hair out of place. Fashionable clothing at all times. Pure respect for others. Someone once described tact as the art of telling someone to go to hell and send them smiling on their way. That was mom, through and through. Not that she would ever tell anyone to go to hell, God forbid that would happen. She was very conscious of what she said, what was said in public, what should be considered private, what would other people think.

She passed away on January 15, 1979 after her lung cancer ravaged the rest of her body. She went from diagnosis to death in 10 months. She was 54. I blame her entirely for my cancer. She wants me to join her. She misses me. Not so fast, mom, not so fast.

Life was troubled in our first years in Canada. Culture shock was only part of the issue. Moving from Ethiopia in 1963 to Iran, out of Iran in 1965 to the U.K., and finally in Canada in 1968 was just a few moves too many. Each move created its own level of culture shock.

Ethiopia made for a good living environment for the family. Those were more innocent times. This in spite of the attempted coup we lived through. School was closed while bullets flew everywhere. My brother went out to investigate at some point. He threw himself on the ground when bullets started flying. The person behind him was not so lucky. My mother made us sleep in the corridor of our apartment. Safest place surrounded by walls and no windows. We would go out and play when there was a lull in the fighting, then rush back inside when the fighting started again.

Ethiopia is where I learned to swim, and ride a bike. We went to a French school. My parents figured we would learn English at home, and it would be good for us to have a second or third language to fall back on. We went to the amazing Lycee Francais Guebre Mariam run by the Lycee system out of France. Our classrooms were set up to mix the native Ethiopians with the rest of us. They came to school in bare feet. They had to go to see the nurse every morning to get de-liced. This usually meant that their heads would be powdered with DDT. They would come to class with white heads.

My mother was epileptic and suffered through three grand mals. She was sent to Germany to stay with her mother, sister and brother after each seizure. The doctors would give her drugs and stabilise her and she would rush back to be with us in Ethiopia. Her third grand mal was the worst and the doctors convinced her that we had to leave Ethiopia. We returned to Iran where our family supported us is all ways. We, the children, were not really told what was ging on. We were just leaving and returning to our native land.

We lasted all of two years there. My parents sent us to live in England. My brother was already there and we had numerous friends who would look after us. We were sent to school in a small town called Attleborough, for about three months. We settled in Huntingdon, 15 miles out of Cambridge where Fetneh and I went to school. Not sure what Shohreh was doing or what school she went to. We were there for about a year. Fetneh and I ended up in boarding school, a place called Wymondham College. Shohreh went to Bristol University. Fo’ad was around somewhere.

Not happy times, I am afraid. The kids in the school were very bigoted. I was the only coloured kid. Not a good scene. We left the U.K. in 1968 to come to Canada. Am I ranting too much. There is a point to all of this.

AS mentioned somewhere above, the house on St Joseph Boulevard was split into two buildings, the second one containing the washing machine and dryer. I had done some of the laundry when we lived in Iran. We had one of those old tubs with a ringer that would eat up your hand if you let it. Once in Canada, my job was to do the laundry again. Specially since it was so inconvenient. I helped with the vacuuming, and of course the windows. Fetneh assisted with the cooking and cleaning of the kitchen. We were all trying to find ourselves and each other again. We had not been a family for two to three years in the most formative parts of our lives.

It tool everyone to run the house. Like a finely tuned Swiss clock full of cogs and intricate machinery, the house had to be run. Clothes washed, floors cleaned, rooms maintained, tempers contained. Nothing unusual. Just the way things were.

We moved in 1970 to a house on Querbes Street, just around the corner. Bought the place for C$26,000. Sold in 10 years later for C$110,000. Not a bad return. It was a big house for a big family. We finished the basement. At least my brother and father did. My job was to not get injured cleaning thing up. Remove nails from the wood, sweep, don’t hurt yourself. I could barely yield a hammer without hitting myself. Better to handle the menial tasks, boring as they may be.

It was a beautiful basement that doubled as my father’s office. We held gatherings there where my father talked to anyone who would listen about the Baha’i Faith. He was very well read, English, Farsi, and Arabic. He had studied the Bible and the Quoran, developing an interesting perspective on all the religions and their position in society. The regular Wednesday evening gatherings were called firesides. We usually had about 20 people show up for these. All ‘s were served supper, followed by my mothers famous banana cake and tea of course.

Fetneh and I were very busy on these evenings, helping set things up, clean, re-set things up, clean again. I met Janet at one of these sessions. We spent a bit of time washing and drying dishes. The rest is history as they say. My friend Mehran introduced us. Janet was living with Diana Gibbs at the time. They had been in residence together. Mehran and I helped move them to their apartment.

All cogs helping events run smoothly.

Janet and I got married in August of 1980. We moved to Toronto after our wedding. The house was sold, there was nowhere for us to stay in Montreal. We had made several trips to Toronto and had found an apartment on St Laurence Blvd near Bathurst Street.

We moved a  few more time, first to the Beach area, then to Coxwell Avenue across from the race tracks, finally to our house on Bloomfield Avenue where we stayed for 14 years. It took a while to establish roles and rules. They are constantly compromised and situations change. Finally though, I ran the house, she brought in the money. Every situation has its ups and downs. Ours is no different.

It occurred to me that we are all cogs in a beautiful machine that forms all the time changing its attributes adding and removing cogs as the need arises. Ours was a two-cog unit internally at least. As time goes by, you realise that there all sorts of external cogs that have some sort of influence on your life. People who reach in to help. listen, participate. All cogs in your life. Coming and going as their needs change and evolve. We are all cogs in each others lives, some thinner, others thicker; some smaller, others larger. Coming and going all the time.

Why the history above? We lived in Ethiopia in a compound of 8 apartments reserved for those teaching at the Technical School. My father taught there. The eight families relied on each other for all sorts of things. We had a guard to make sure the undesirables kept out of the compound. A cog. He was a nice guy and looked after us.

We moved to Iran which was the only place we could go to and have some sort of support network. Lots of cogs there. From cousins who gave my father a job, to others such as Mr. Khabirpour, husband of Nazenine (my first cousin) who lent us a car when the government of the day passed some sort of onerous law regarding new cars. We were driving an Opel Caravan that we drove from Germany to Iran in 7 days. Look at a map. It is some sort of dubious record my father was very proud of. My uncle in Germany helped my dad with the purchase. A cog. My grandmother and aunt put up with us in their small apartment. More cogs. The car we were lent was an old Dodge. Big, ugly and battleship gray. My mother would pull up behind other drivers and they would move out of the way. It was a hoot.

We moved to the U.K. where we were looked after by the Afnan family. We may be related to them somehow. We were old friends from days prior to Ethiopia. More cogs. They took us in and looked after us until we moved to Huntingdon. We were pretty much on our own in Huntingdon. Fo’ad went to Judo and insisted I go with him. They tried to convince me that I, standing short, could topple a guy my brother;s size or larger. They were all very nice. I was very intimidated and quit pretty soon after joining. Fo’ad tried many times to get me involved in some sort of martial arts, asking friends to demonstrate their prowess at breaking bricks and other items of general interest. Nothing doing. I am guessing now that I was in a bit of a shock given all the moves and the strange surroundings.

We moved to the boarding school. The Afnan family became our guardians for the next couple of years. We would go to Germany for Christmas and summer vacations and stay with my grandmother, Iran Joon, my aunt, and Uncle Said. They lived in a one bedroom apartment in Munich. My uncle and aunt would share the bedroom when we showed up. We would sleep in the living room floor. Every night, the furniture would be moved aside, bedding put down, and we would sleep. My grandmother would use this occasion to eat an orange, and read. She was quite overweight. We would take turns at making her laugh when she attempted to take afternoon naps. We delighted in watching her stomach jiggle and roll. She would always have metro passes ready for us to use. My uncle would purchase an old bicycle from the police auctions for my use. Cogs, cogs, and more cogs.

We moved to Canada where the Baha’i community was very embracing. It was a small community. Canada had a population of 20 million at the time. I think there were five foreigners in the whole country. I jest. Some of our family members were already here. Nadia Majzub, and Faraneh Khadem. And others. We came to know the Javanmardi’s and Khodadaddeh’s, all of whom we are still friends with. All helped us settle into this brave new country.  Cogs.

I was a really bad student. Very lazy. Things came too easily at first and I had forgotten how to study when things got more complicated. I had help from a number of people in school. Small cogs. Really small. We had no idea what to expect from winter. Really and truly, how could anyone imagine what a temperature of minus 30 celsius feels like?

We bought the wrong clothes, and figured out what to do by watching others and listening. Small cogs.

You grow up, make decisions, marry, have children, choose a career, succeed, have fun, go skiing, fall on your ass, cry, get up and fix things, grow up. All happens with the help of others, all cogs in your life. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Nothing happens by your grit alone. Everything happens through the good graces of others helping you, in small ways, in some ways. All cogs in your life whether you acknowledge it or not.

I imagine a cog, you at the centre, with other cogs moving in and out of the picture, connecting, growing in size, getting smaller, moving on, changing colour and design, gravitating to another set of cogs, all moving in a fluid motion over time. Rising and falling. Always in motion, never standing still.

Is my cog broken? Are my gears all worn out rendering me immobile and useless waiting for others to help and assist? It sure seems that way sometimes. It sure seems that way when it comes to the small stuff, looking after the house, doing the laundry, washing the dishes, vacuuming and so on. Other days bring some other attributes to light making the gears and cogs gleam as if shone on by a brilliant ray of sunshine. Gone is the guilt, replaced by a sense of accomplishment by some creative process that appears to be taking over.

Writing a blog that appears to be affecting more people than imagined. In ways I could not have possibly foretold. Taking pictures, creating art, thinking, talking, joking.

My cog is doing fine. Spinning a bit slower than before, but it is spinning, connecting to others.

Life is good.

© 2010 I Have Cancer Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha