Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What time does that wedding start?

Well, that depends.  Let’s say you are invited to a wedding at 7:00 p.m.  In America, that means the bride is going to walk down the aisle at 7:00, so you better be in your seat a little before that.  If you are an Iranian, a 7:00 o’clock invitation means you can start arriving after 7:00 but the bride and groom will not arrive until 8:00 or 8:30 p.m.  If you are in Venezuela, don’t expect the bride before 9:00 p.m.  No one is being rude or inconsiderate here.  It is what is understood by time in each culture and as long as we all speak the same language, we are not frustrated or insulted.  It only becomes a problem when Iranians or Venezuelans get married in the United States, or Americans attend a wedding in another cultural setting. Or better yet, when an Iranian marries a Venezuelan in the United States. It helps, however, if you are a cultural anomaly, as my husband and I are.  I am Iranian, but born to a family that was uncharacteristically punctual.  Thank God my mother and father both had the same urgency about being on time.  So we never had any problems begin at places five minutes early.  My husband Ben is descended rom Europeans who immigrated to the United States in the 19th Century and left their sense of time and their inherent respect for the clock somewhere between Minnesota and Texas.  They always act so surprised and little bit indignant when they realize that time has moved on without their permission.   What Ben and I have learned as a bi-cultural couple is to not take anything for granted.  Before we fly off the handle and accuse each other of being either too self-centered or too controlling we check to make sure that the issue is not more about a cultural difference rather than a character flaw. 

This difference in what is meant by time on an invitation, became apparent to me when years ago an Iranian did marry a Venezuelan in America.  The invitation was for 5:00 p.m., so Ben and I and the rest of the American guests were sitting in our seats in the room where the ceremony was to be held at 5:00.  Around 5:30, when the American guests started to get worried about the wedding actually taking place, we reassured them that it wasn’t unusual for the bride and groom to arrive an hour after the indicated time.  The family arrived around 6:30 and I was sure we would begin by 7:00 p.m.  I had not counted on Latin time being even more flexible than Persian time.  At 7:30 p.m. the groom came through and greeted everyone and finally at 8:00 p.m. the lovely bride entered.  A good time was had by all, despite the initial misunderstanding.  I was glad Ben and I had been able to serve as cultural mediators and point out that no insult or lack of consideration was intended on the part of the bride and groom, just a different chrono-vocabulary was being used.

It helps to be married to someone of a different culture to realize that we are more alike than different and when we stop and give each other the benefit of the doubt, we not only notice the similarities, but grow to appreciate the differences.

So what time does that wedding start?  It depends: Who is marrying whom and where.   Susan

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sixth-Grade Graduation by Carolyn

"Melted Ice Cream and Googoosh" reminds me of the time I was in 6th grade and about to "graduate" from elementary school. My mother spent hours and hours making me a beautiful white dress, covered in scarlet ribbons threaded through rows of white eyelet lace. For some obscure reason no longer in my memory, I had decided to ride my bike to school with a friend that day instead of riding the bus as I usually did. Being the klutz that I am, I had a wreck on my bike. Later that day my mother arrived at school to watch me walk across the stage to accept my elementary school "diploma" in the pristine, snowy-white, ribbon-bedecked dress she had so lovingly made. What she saw instead was me walking across the stage in a less-than-pristine, used-to-be-snowy-white dress with a huge smear of mud and axle grease across the front and several of the rows of eyelet lace-encased scarlet ribbons dangling forlornly from it! My pantyhose (a supremely exciting first-time privilege for a young girl) were ripped in shreds, and the T-strap of one of my once shiny Mary Janes was flopping up and down as I walked, the button fastener having been another casualty of the bike accident. No doubt she was as mortified as I was. I can only hope that she still felt some pride in my academic accomplishments, even in the midst of her irritation with me at my shabby treatment of the beautiful dress she had expended so much time and energy creating for my special occasion. Because she was a woman of infinite love, I feel sure she did.

Living Legacies by Andrea

I heard it said that everyday, everywhere we go, we will make an impact.  It is up to us as to whether the impact is positive or negative.  Nowhere is this truth more obvious than in our families, with our children.

I have had several encounters lately that call me to consider what kind of legacy I am leaving behind.  The word legacy conjures up images of good things in my mind.  But what is left, as a spiritual, emotional and social inheritance, may not always be positive.  Negative legacies can actually be destructive. There are many people walking around today who have been left an endowment of pain, confusion and emptiness.

I have to believe that most people do not plan to leave their offspring with scars that can ruin lives for generations, but it happens.  Maybe because time was not taken to consider the question:

What am I giving to my children by how I am living today?


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Melted Ice Cream and Googoosh

Arriving at the wedding, staying close to my charge.
Here I am trying to get my little companion to get back to her post.  There is the ice cream being served.
Googoosh circa. 1967

I remember the moment I learned that ice cream melts!  I was 4 years old and it was my uncle’s wedding.  My mother had used the fabric from her own wedding dress to sew me an outfit. It was a special occasion because as the only niece of the groom who was old enough to walk, I was chosen to help carry the bride’s train; the Persian equivalent of a flower girl.  I was sharing the job with the bride’s cousin, who unfortunately, was not taking it as seriously as I was.   She kept looking at the crowd and waving to people as we walked in.  Also, I was under the impression that we were on call all night and stayed close to the bride to help her with that bulk of fabric at any moment.  The little cousin disappeared as soon as the ceremony was over. At some point during the reception, we were served three scoops of ice cream in a glass dish.  I had eaten some of it and left the rest sitting on a ledge near the dance floor.  I don’t think I was dancing; I was probably watching the bride and groom dance and ready to jump in and hold that train if necessary. There was a live band and the teenage lead singer had everyone mesmerized.  We did not know at the time that she would go on to become Iran’s most famous singer, Googoosh, a classy mix of Marylin Monroe and Madonna.  Years later we always bragged about how Googoosh sang at our uncle’s wedding before she was famous.  Eventually I returned to my bowl of ice cream, picked it up and tilted it towards me to get another spoonful when the melted mess of chocolate and strawberry spilled all over my beautiful dress.  As a young perfectionist who never did anything to displease her mother, I was horrified and felt the ruin of the night in the pit of my stomach.  Did I go find my mother or did I try to hide from her, afraid at how displeased she would be that I had ruined the precious dress?  I can’t remember.  The next memory is of the two of us in a bathroom, trying to rinse out the mess.  After the party, the dress was put away and I never wore it again.  I don’t know whether it was because it was stained permanently or because I outgrew it before the next special occasion.  But the night of my Da’i Siavash’s wedding, will forever be associated in my mind with melted ice cream and Googoosh.