We Did What We Had to Do - A Daughter of Immigrants Tells Her Family's Story

The sun beamed through a dusty window as we sprawled out on the ancient Persian rug. A sterling silver tray of sweets, hot tea, and ripe summer fruit lay in front of us as we caught up on the present and reminisced on the past. It had been four long years since I had been in my aunt’s Tehran apartment. It was the exact same way I had left it summers before -- stacked with food and a blare of Persian soap operas filling the background noise. I loved it here.

My aunt’s piercing yet adorable laugh reminded me how much I’ve missed them. She cackled with her whole body as she pulled me in, telling me she missed me in Farsi. And I missed her too. I missed her overbearing and loving ways. I missed her force-feeding me kabobs when I was already seconds away from a food coma. I missed the scent of buttery steaming rice filling the streets. I missed the scorching hot days and serene nights. I missed the broken English my cousin would insist speaking to me in (even though I understand Farsi, his attempts always mean a lot to me). But most of all, I missed this, sitting around all afternoon with my family stuffing our faces with Persian delicacies to physical discomfort. We lived worlds apart, yet somehow I always felt at home here.  

My parents moved from Iran right before the revolution took over in 1979. My mom lead the way (as per usual) before my dad decided to follow a year later. She fled her home country without any accompanying family or job, and with extremely minimal English and 200 dollars. Because my grandmother was sick at the time, my mother’s family stayed in Iran, sending her off to live out her dreams in America. Her plan was to return to Iran after getting her degree in America, but the Iranian revolution had other plans for her. Struggling with the guilt of leaving, my grandfather said to her, “Go now or you’ll never make it out of here.”

Working in the states as a young immigrant certainly wasn’t easy. My mom and dad both worked at a 7/11 for years before finding real work. But they didn’t see this as a setback. To them, they were making a decent living. And most importantly, they were in America: a country they had only dreamed of being apart of but never expected to become their reality. My mother was pregnant with my brother, Yasha at the time, working 12-15 hour days. Throughout the odd jobs and struggles, my parents managed to put themselves through architecture school at OU, juggling work, exams, and adjusting to everyday “American” life, until “American” life just simply became, well, life.

If you ask my parents about their experience, they’ll always tell you the same thing: we just did it. This used to infuriate me. How could something so life changing be clumped up into such a thoughtless description? It wasn’t until recently that I understood this is the only way they could have made that leap. Because thinking too much would complicate everything, analyzing it into tiny pieces that would soon begin to seem impossible to put together. At the time, it wasn’t such a monumental move for them. It was necessary. It was dire. It simply had to be done, like a chore or task waiting to be checked off of a list.

I’m forever in awe of my parents for the courage they had during a time of economic and cultural chaos. I love my parents because if they were to read this they wouldn’t believe any of these things to be true. They would just shrug and say, we did what we had to do.