Riding on the choo-choo train that took us to the southern part of Tehran for a day of outing in the country was exciting. I was five years old and loved the open air carts, wooden seats, and the smoke from the train engine, not to mention the sound of the long whistle. But the most enjoyable part of the trip was the papier-mâché doll my parents bought me at the train station. It was the first doll I owned, but it didn’t last long and after a couple of days it fell apart.
When I was six and in first grade, Uncle Jafar promised to buy me a pretty doll if I ranked at the top of my class. The year ended and I brought home my report card. All As and I was ranked at the top of my class. But there was no sign of a doll anywhere in the house. The disappointment was unbearable, so I confronted Uncle Jafar.
“Where is my doll?” I demanded.
He didn’t like my attitude and tone of voice. But I felt entitled – I had brought home an excellent report card and wanted the promised doll.
Uncle Jafar raised his eyebrows, and then frowned, his thick brows knotting together. “Maybe later,” he said.
I wanted my doll right at that moment, so I made a pest of myself by repeating my demand over and over again. Uncle Jafar was irritated, my mother felt utterly embarrassed, and my father boiled with anger. But I kept whining and bugging Uncle Jafar - and then threw my customary tantrum! It was perfectly logical to demand the prize I was promised.
Uncle Jafar had an appointment. He gave me a nasty sideway glance. Without saying a word he headed toward the front door and out into the street. My little brain dictated I was entitled to collect my prize because I had kept my part of the bargain. Why wasn’t he willing to drop everything and get me the promised doll?
I followed him outside, sobbing and screaming. At this point my parents’ patience wore out completely. I was yanked into the house and given a good spanking. Surely, there was no justice in this world
. Why was I being punished for doing well in school and getting good grades? I didn’t understand grownup logic and behavior.
Three days passed. Then Uncle Jafar handed me a pretty little doll with golden hair and blue eyes that opened and closed when I tilted its head. The joy of getting a doll was mitigated by the agony of my previous punishment. I simply and quietly said “Thank you!”
When I was in third grade, Aunt Mary, Uncle Razmi’s wife, announced she was making me a doll. Wow, a hand-made doll! What a treat. It was Persian New Year and adults were supposed to give children presents. Aunt Mary didn’t have anything for me, but she was making me a doll. It wasn’t finished yet. I could wait.
Two months passed by and there was no sign of the doll. I was playing with Aunt Mary’s niece one afternoon. I mustered enough courage to ask her to check and see if the doll was finished yet. She came back and reported the doll was almost finished and that Aunt Mary was planning to hand it to me herself along with some cash, as a present.
A year went by and still there was no sign of the doll. By then I was older and suddenly wiser to realize not all grownup promises will be kept.