“Dokhtareh!, Dokhtareh!” -- “It's a girl! It's a girl!” The jubilant commotion of four boys filled the corridor that connected the upstairs rooms. One end of the corridor was not enclosed, it was open to the yard below. This cry of victory was carried by the warm late summer air through the corridor to the neighboring homes and to the street. It is hard to know how far it audibly travelled. But it must have cruised farther than one imagines today for Shahrood was a quiet sleepy town. There were hardly any cars in this city. One passing through could have easily imagined that there were none.
It did not take long that anybody who was anybody, pretty much the whole town, knew that Khanoom-e Doktor, Mrs. Doctor, had a girl! The news spread quickly reaching the nerve center of Shahrood, the single roundabout which connected the only four streets in town. The gossip or news center of the city the butcher, green grocer and fruit store, dry goods and spice shop, the stationary store and the drugstore would absorb the news and re transmit them. In this case they would say "thank god! Mrs. Doctor got her wish" while rolling their eyes over a full circle. Everybody knew what Mrs. Doctor's wish was and they thought of it as nutty, at least a bit crazy. Who in his right mind would want a daughter! In their ledger a girl was in the expense column and she should be married off as soon as possible, in a fire sale with a dowry attached to her. Otherwise, some delay could keep her permanently in the expense column of the dad's book.
In Mrs. Doctor's case they probably thought of her wish only a bit nutty since they knew about her eccentric ways and had to put up with it. She was the first woman who arrived in town a few years earlier with a bare head, without hijab – a head cover. She had set a precedent against the religious grain of the town. If it was not for the presence of the Shah's military governor the nerve center of the city could have turned into the agitation center for chopping her head off. That probably was the preferred option for them.
The whole town was familiar with the ways of Mrs. Doctor. She was a good teacher, teaching biology and chemistry to the only girl's high school in Shahrood. She was called Mrs. Doctor but this name did not have any relation with her profession other than she was married to a pathologist. They knew about her eccentricity and unconventional ways which surfaced from time to time but there was something that they did not know about her which in their mind could seem totally crazy. They did not know that my mother always wanted a daughter from the time that I was conceived. I probably was her first disappointment however slight it was. She was not yet 20, young and had time on her side. The second one, Babak, a boy again!
When we arrived in Shahrood, 1956, for the first time we were a family with everyday presence of both my parents. Our lives quickly found its own groove, things settled down and my mother's quest for a girl flared up. This time she had picked a name too, Faranak. She was sure that this time it would be a Faranak.
I was old enough to follow the adult conversations and had developed an appetite to sit when a company was over and listen to the back and forth talks.
"Why do you want a girl, she would be only trouble."
"I always wanted a girl. I don't care what people say."
"A boy is god's blessing. He would be your helper"
"I already have two, this one is my right hand" pointing out to me, caressing my head or shoulder. "but I want a girl!"
Her insistence was infectious, I wished her a girl. I wanted a baby girl too! But it was a boy again. My mother was so hooked to having a Faranak that she found an obscure name, apparently a Kurdish name. My little brother was named Faramak! Most people thought that she made up the name. They probably thought "What else! What do you expect from a lady who has gone nuts over having a girl!" My father was mostly quiet on this subject.
Faramak was not even a year old when she got pregnant again. Everybody knew that she was on a mission, a Faranak mission!
"What if this one is a boy also!"
"I will try again!"
"Are you going to fill the world with boys? You might not get your wish!"
"I don't care, I have to have a girl!"
It was about noon, the boys were milling around outside the room. Rahimeh, a pillar of our lives, was going in and out. She was helping the new midwife who had arrived. My mother's midwife, Mrs. Nafehati, a family friend was out of town. I knew my mother was in labor and every time Rahimeh would come out of the room I would pepper her with questions. "Not yet, not yet! I am busy, just wait".
It was early afternoon when I heard Rahimeh shriek from inside the room. "Dokhtareh!" We were jumping up and down repeating Rahimeh at the top of our voices. The boys, Babak, Behrooz and Behzad (the latter two being my cousins) were almost evenly 2 years apart, me being the oldest. Faramak, the fifth one, less than two years old, could not understand what was going on. He was lifting himself on his toes, mostly on one foot, each time lifting his arms up trying to keep rhythm with the older boys. We were unaware that we were participating in our own mini revolution by celebrating Faranak.
Faranak arrived with an unbending single mindedness, set in her own ways from day one. Even nursing her required all kinds of tricks by my mother. I loved to put Faramak and Faranak to sleep, sitting on the floor cradling them on my out stretched legs with their head on a pillow resting on my feet, rocking them by rotating my legs from side to side. Putting Faramak to sleep was easy but Faranak was a chore, she wanted her own ways by playing all kinds of tricks on you. You would be disappointed looking for conformity from Faranak. Looking back it all seems so natural, she was the product of an unbending single mindedness.
Now Faranak is gone and it seems so unfair, she was eleven years younger than me.