My motherís older brother, Gholam, had divorced his wife. According to family gossip, his ex-wife was a good-looking, ill-tempered, feisty, spoiled and conceited shrew who constantly fought with Gholam and the rest of the family. The marriage had ended in divorce. She had packed up and taken with her everything there was in the house. However, she had left behind their two children: a six-year old daughter named Shamsi, and a four-year old son, Hossein. Shamsi was seven months younger than I. A few years after the divorce, Gholam had remarried, but unfortunately, Shamsi and the step-mother did not get along and another family hell was created for Uncle Gholam.
Shamsi had inherited her motherís good-looks, ill-temper, and foul mouth. I didnít care for Shamsi at all, but tolerated her in the family gatherings. I disliked her selfishness and feisty nature! What I detested the most was how the grownups catered to Shamsi and excused her bad behavior due to the fact she was deprived of motherly love and had a stepmother. Apparently, everyone remembered the story of Cinderella and the wicked stepmother! I didnít like her because she was good-looking, promiscuous, arrogant, and aggressive.
On those summers when Shamsi would come to stay at our house, I knew I was going to have a miserable time. She was not an easy-going person, and her bad temper always landed us in arguments and fights. Uncle Gholam traveled and was on the road a lot. So to keep peace at his home front, he would bring Shamsi to our house, hand her a wad of cash, and leave her under my parentsí care and supervision. No one ever asked me if I wanted to have Shamsi as a playmate! I guess we both felt a tinge of jealousy towards each other Ė she was jealous of my family situation, and I was jealous of her carefree and wild spirit which did not seem to get her into trouble with my parents. We definitely did not get along, and were two different types of peas in different pods. Coming to our house was a respite for Shamsi and my parents were well aware of it, but it certainly ruined many of my summer vacations.
ďObedienceĒ was the name of the game with my parents. I knew that if I was not in compliance with the rules they set, there would be consequences. So it was very disturbing to witness how Shamsi did not have to obey the rules in my house. If her behavior was unacceptable to my parents, she was not punished because she was a guest. I hated my parentsí double standards. I was supposed to be ladylike whereas Shamsi was free to be flirtatious, behave as she pleased, and with the wad of cash her father gave her, she could spend as much as she wanted, on anything she liked.
I also resented the sense of pity and sympathy that she invoked in the grownups. I donít know how harsh or unkind her stepmother was towards her, but in my own mind I had no doubt that Shamsi, with her foul mouth and bad temper, could have contributed to the situation. Whatever the circumstances, it must have been really bad because she eventually ran away from home in her late teens.
In the past fifty years I have seen her only twice. On both occasions we had a nice and civil encounter. By then we were adults with grown children of our own. I came away with a sense of relief that Shamsi, despite her lack of formal education, and wild nature, had managed to marry well, create a good life for herself, and establish a business of her own as a beautician. Her feisty nature and good-looks, combined with her street smarts and arrogance had served her well.