An evening walk along Khaju Bridge in Isfahan

This chapter (which I hope will become a part of a larger project) tells the story of a moment I shared with my mother on a trip we took to Iran at the beginning of last summer. It was the first time either of us had visited the country in seventeen years and the first time since my maternal grandmother had passed away. When I realized the song being sung in the tunnel was my grandmother’s favorite song, my mind was flooded with memories of the times I had spent with her, many of which included this song in the background. As her health declined towards the end of her life, my family would visit my grandmother, who I called Mamanjoon, in Toronto. We’d sit by her bedside and be with her while she slept or talk with her over cups of tea. My mom would often put on this song, a sad but melodic old Iranian love song that she knew my grandmother loved to calm her down in moments of stress or to fill the silence in the room. During the pandemic when we couldn’t go visit her, this song would play through Facetime on my mom’s phone, as she’d play the song from her computer nearby after she had finished talking to my grandmother for her to listen to.

I had just begun my first quarter of college when I found out that my grandmother had passed away. Though most of my life that I had known her she had been quite ill and we unfortunately never had a very close relationship, I felt immense loss for her and especially for my mother, who had just lost her mother. While in Iran, I felt that loss much more intensely than I had experienced it before. I had returned to a homeland after the death of the matriarch of my family; and as I walked around the neighborhood my mom grew up in, saw the school my grandmother taught at, I felt as though I was only just beginning to understand the person my grandmother was and how important she was to the lives of all the family members I was meeting in Iran.

In this course, I’ve thought a lot about the ways that collective memory has been critical to my experience as a person in the diaspora. My connection to the home of my family and ancestors is through story, old photographs, and through the essence carried by the songs and foods that my family holds onto. With this chapter, I hope to capture the magic of that storytelling and the extent of the emotion and power that it holds to comfort us and remind us of our collective past.