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They’ve never sat us down, my sister and I, and said, “It’s time we told you our life stories. We’re immigrants, and it’s important for us to share what that means, and it’s important for you to know where you came from.” I don’t think any parents have ever said that in the history of the world outside of movies. But you pick these things up—a stray word here and there, stories packed up the attic and left to rot. They’re patched and dusty, and they don’t fit together and I’m sure that dates and details have fallen off over time.
My mother came when she was twenty-four. Alone. She came because she wanted an education (education is very important to us), and because she didn’t want to live in a room with her five siblings for the rest of her life. She wanted independence. So she got a Rotary scholarship, stepped onto a plane for the first time in her life, and flew to Tehran.
My grandmother came seeking a doctorate in mathematics (education is very important to us), and she brought her family along. My father was seven, his brother 13. My grandfather was never happy here. Two years after arriving, they went back to India, leaving behind two sons and a bit of money.
When my parents tell this story, it has a very specific ending: “and that is how it came to pass that our children were born and grew to be greater and smarter and wealthier than us.”
That’s how the story goes. You’re can’t change the ending mid-way through. It’s cheating.