Magic Carpet

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The Magic Carpet

It was through the back door of the courtyard that my brother and I left our house in Tehran for the last time.   At that threshold, my father in what seemed to me to be one uninterrupted move, lifted a silk carpet from the living-room floor, folded it into a bundle and slipped it into my knapsack—the only luggage I was allowed to carry on the border crossing.

The move from my father surprised me then.  It baffles me still thirty years later.  My father loved his rugs. They were his most beloved possessions.  We knew this because for a couple of years, since the Iran-Iraq war had began, my father would come home each night carrying and then unfolding meticulously and with exquisite pleasure yet another marvelous carpet.  He had made a winning move, he believed, selling our other house in the Persian Gulf city of Ahvaz, right before the outbreak of the war.  He had then convinced my mother that the best way of safeguarding the money was to invest them in carpets; in antique, rare, silken ones, with fantastic motifs.  That particular one, with its shimmering saffron background gracing a multitude of golden and turquoise birds was the most prized in his collection.  But, his move surprised me as it was out of character.  My father never moved so fast, never pro-actively, and never to let go.    This parting gift was his first.

There was no time to reflect upon this unexpected gesture. To accept or not to accept?  Will this gift be a blessing or a curse? Can I take care of this bundle all the way to our destination?  We had to move, as our smugglers with names I now have forgotten, had given us specific instructions to arrive at the airport of Zahedan, the provincial town bordering Pakistan:  Never linger.  Look devout.  Bring only an overnight bag containing basic necessities, and a pocket Quran to serve the devout look.  Carry no precious items.  And do not say long goodbyes, lest you betray yourselves and that you are leaving the country– permanently.

Somehow, from that first night away from our house, sleeping in the muddy adobes of Zahedan, until the eve of the last leg of our journey –the flight leaving Geneva for Washington D.C.  three months later– that carpet would care for itself.  It would appear and disappear, hide and become conspicuous for the occasion.  Each time I had to make a decision as to how to handle it in a split second, my instinct would be on the spot.  Will they search the carryon bag, or the ones checked in at the Quetta airport?  In Karachi hotel, should we leave the bag under the bed or take it to the restaurant with us?  Should we lock in our bags in a safe or leave it in the room, in Istanbul?   And in Tel Aviv, when we were greeted finally by a familiar face, my uncle, what marvelous smile he displayed when the carpet emerged brilliantly out of the dusty sack– Bravo Bravo, how did you manage to bring this all the way?

When we had our visas to United States later in Switzerland, we had also ran out of the 10 notes, each a thousand German Marks, the smugglers had agreed to pass for us.   The first Genevan rug dealer that saw our carpet, fell in love and offered us, $7000.  3,500 for my brother and I each.  I properly deposited mine at the White Flint branch of Chase Manhattan in Maryland upon arrival.  There, safely deposited, it continued to work its magic.  It was that which allowed me to dream concretely, and to savor possibilities within measure. It gave me a measure of security as well as adventure.   That money, finally took me on a trip out of America to Europe as a college freshman, where I discovered adventures of a different type.  Not moving towards a fixed destination, a home, but getting away already.   The golden carpet contained and compressed for so many years, unfolded onto a life of exploration.

Looking at my father’s move at that particular moment of departure and separation.  One instant at the threshold.  One instant without a thought, a blink that sets in motion life to come. One instant’s move, inspired by an instinct so hidden, you didn’t know you had.  One instant that makes up for a whole lifetime.

Mahnaz yousefzadeh

 

11 thoughts on “Magic Carpet

  1. I found the story that you told fascinating and touching. The real and symbolic value of the carpet obviously were of tremendous significance to you, and it is very well reflected in the essay.
    The interview format was a great idea, and helped understand the essay a little better. It was interesting and helpful to learn more about what happened in Iran in the late 1970s-1980s. Hearing from a first-hand observer of the events certainly added an extra dimension to the story.
    Thank you for an interesting talk!

    Like

  2. I loved your story. Not only was it interesting but it shed light on a subject matter I really knew nothing about. I do have one question and that is if there was an absolute breaking point where your family decided it was time to leave. You provided many reasons why it was necessary to leave in our discussion but I was just wondering if there was perhaps one final straw that resulted in your uprooting. I also would like to learn more about how the war affected your family members. For example would choosing to have stayed resulted in your father and brother ultimately having to join the fight. Would you, yourself, perhaps have had to take up arms as well?

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  3. 1.) I think my favorite part about the essay was how you used the carpet as a way to tackle time and movement. It can be surprisingly hard to move through time and space in literature, even though it is something we don’t always think about in real life, we just do. How can you cover three weeks without obviously saying three weeks later, or three minutes later, etc. This was done beautifully by directing our attention on the rug so we can really experience the story through this focus.

    2.)I think it was really helpful that Julia added into the interview format. Sometimes a teacher refuses to talk and it can be very awkward because even if you are interested, you are not sure what you wanted to know. Having Julia prompt when we could not formulate our questions worked wonderfully with your answers that addressed the original question, but also covered new topics so we could move forward in the conversation and think of new questions.

    3.)An overwhelming feeling I was left with was my own ignorance of the world around me. Studying abroad and travelling around Europe has opened me up to this more than I have ever felt in high school, and this is just one more factor. I wanted to know more than I did about the Iran and Iraq War and everything you were talking about. You did an amazing job in trying to describe it to us and not treating us like we were not intelligent for not knowing.

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  4. I liked that the magic carpet was a symbol for your adventures, but when you sold the carpet, did you feel you were leaving behind your past? Or was it liberating to have infinite options ahead of you?
    The interview format allowed the class to explore your life in our own way. We were interacting with you, and could ask questions whenever we had any.
    Do you still feel very connected to Iran, or is it just a place you lived until you were fourteen?

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  5. 1). I was compelled by your way of narrative, within the first words we were invited in to your life, your experience, your family, and your heart. “The Magic Carpet”, held so much power in the title, offered light as well as understanding of what the rug meant to your father, to you, to your brother, and to your future. It was very helpful to experience this sense of creative/personal writing. Further, to have it be read aloud to us, by you personally was deeply moving.

    2). I liked the way you read the story, asked our opinions, and connected yourself to us. The communication of the story, the history, and the past/present/future meanings were all relatable, and accessible.

    3). If you say we’re all Jew’s, all in search for a home, would you say that you have found your home yet? Can we be in constant search for home, but still finding homes in all of the places we visit? I am a believer that we find home’s in every new situation, it does not have to be one country, one city, one house….home is a feeling, of safety, comfort, security, confidence and love. I find home’s in all places I visit and all people I meet.

    Like

  6. I loved your use of the open doorway metaphor as a means to connect your physical removal from Iran with your emotional journey as a traveller later in life. You mentioned that your family was considered upper middle class in Iran, with much of your wealth tied up in your father’s beloved carpets. How do you think your financial status affected your family’s escape from Iran, compared with that of a family with little money? Do you think the process was easier for you? I find this very interesting because I am very close with a Hazara woman whose family recently left Afghanistan. Her family is very nearly destitute and it seems that their story is quite different from yours. This informal interview format was extremely additive to my understanding of the journey of the displaced. I felt very comfortable asking questions when any arose.

    Like

  7. I loved your story. Not only was it interesting but it shed light on a subject matter I really knew nothing about. I do have one question and that is if there was an absolute breaking point where your family decided it was time to leave. You provided many reasons why it was necessary to leave in our discussion but I was just wondering if there was perhaps one final straw that resulted in your uprooting. I also would like to learn more about how the war affected your family members. For example would choosing to have stayed resulted in your father and brother ultimately having to join the fight. Would you, yourself, perhaps have had to take up arms as well?

    Like

  8. 1). I was compelled by your way of narrative, within the first words we were invited in to your life, your experience, your family, and your heart. “The Magic Carpet”, held so much power in the title, offered light as well as understanding of what the rug meant to your father, to you, to your brother, and to your future. It was very helpful to experience this sense of creative/personal writing. Further, to have it be read aloud to us, by you personally was deeply moving.

    2). I liked the way you read the story, asked our opinions, and connected yourself to us. The communication of the story, the history, and the past/present/future meanings were all relatable, and accessible.

    3). If you say we’re all Jew’s, all in search for a home, would you say that you have found your home yet? Can we be in constant search for home, but still finding homes in all of the places we visit? I am a believer that we find home’s in every new situation, it does not have to be one country, one city, one house….home is a feeling, of safety, comfort, security, confidence and love. I find home’s in all places I visit and all people I meet.

    Like

  9. I loved the way the essay communicated the sense of travel through the focus on the carpet. Rather than coming right out and telling us about leaving Iran for Pakistan, then Istanbul, and Tel Aviv, and Switzerland, before finally settling in the US, Mahnaz showed us that journey through the carpet. The carpet that brought a much needed sense of security. It was interesting to have the opportunity to talk after hearing the essay because I had never really considered how central the idea of security is to travel. For me there is no place I feel safer or more secure than at home. Having that security allows me to travel because I know that no matter where I go, I will always have a home to go back to. It was interesting to me to consider how things might be different if I was forced to think of home in a different way because my security came from something else besides my hometown. I really liked the interview format because it allowed me to learn more about the history that inspired the essay. It added an extra dimension to the essay. This talk made examine myself in a way that I was not expecting. I really enjoyed it.

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  10. I liked your use of the magic carpet as a symbol for your adventures, but did you find it difficult to sell the carpet? Was it like leaving behind your past, or was it liberating to have the money and infinite options ahead of you?
    I found the interview very helpful because the class was able to explore your life on our own terms. We could ask questions and you could ask us questions. The conversation was free to develop as it needed to.

    Like

  11. Pingback: Visual and Sonorous ~

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