The Persian language has far more complex vocabulary for describing relatives than the English language does. For example, there are eight different Persian words describing various kinds of cousins—whereas in English, there’s just one word, “cousin.”
Firoozeh suggests that Persian has more intricate language for family members because in Iran, family relationships are a more important, overt part of one’s day-to-day life than they are in America.
One day, while Firoozeh is strolling through Berkeley, she smells a flower and experiences a vivid flashback to playing in her aunt’s garden as a child. At the age of six, Firoozeh loved to spend time with her Uncle Abdullah. Abdullah was an educated man, and Firoozeh admired his passion for language. Abdullah now lives in California with his wife, Firoozeh’s Aunt Sedigeh. He works as a translator, and has four children. Kazem is very close with Abdullah’s children, and after the Iranian Revolution, when he couldn’t find a job, he stayed with Mehdi, one of his (Kazem’s) nephews. More recently, one of Mehdi’s own children stayed with Kazem.
Firoozeh is very close with many of her family members, and the same could be said for Kazem. This closeness manifests itself in many ways—notably, family members take care of each other and provide material, financial support (for example, Kazem stays with Mehdi, and later returns the favor for Mehdi’s child).
Aunt Sedigeh, Kazem’s sister, was a bright child, but because of the norms of Iranian society at the time, she didn’t continue her education after the sixth grade, and married when she was a young teenager. Her brothers became engineers and doctors. Kazem found this outrageous, and often tells Firoozeh that, had Sedigeh been allowed to study, she would have become the best doctor of anyone in the family.
Despite Firoozeh’s largely affectionate portrait of Iranian culture, she faults it for limiting opportunities for women. Firoozeh, as well as her father, seems to find it absurd that Iranian women are expected to bear children before anything else.
Firoozeh’s paternal uncle, Muhammad, became a successful doctor in Ahwaz. However, following the Iranian Revolution, he fled to America. Muhammad then had to get a new medical degree, and by the time he started interning at the hospital he was almost sixty. For Firoozeh, Muhammad is a symbol of the family’s perseverance. To this day, Firoozeh is very close with her cousins, uncles, and nephews. She goes to everyone’s graduation, and celebrates her family’s achievements as joyfully as if they’re her own. Kazem and his siblings have bought burial plots in the same cemetery, since they want to be together even after they die. “Without my relatives,” Firoozeh concludes, “I am but a thread; together, we form a colorful and elaborate Persian carpet.”
Another aspect of Firoozeh’s close relationship with her family is that she becomes genuinely happy when good things happen to her family members—for example, she takes genuine pride and inspiration in Uncle Muhammad’s success as a doctor in the U.S. Firoozeh’s comparison between her family and a Persian carpet is apt: individual “threads” in the carpet aren’t very beautiful or interesting, but when they’re combined with other threads, they become something much more. In the same way, Firoozeh’s family has enriched her life.