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Revisiting My Grandfather’s Garden

Dusty Pixel / Getty, Greg Hill / Unsplash, Illustration by Katie Kosma

Mojgan Ghazirad| Longreads | March 2019 | 17 minutes (4,133 words)

In a cul-de-sac, I hear the purring of a gas stove and the popping of boiling tomato juice bubbles on the surface of a cauldron. The tomato paste aroma saturates the air. It’s August and it’s high time for making pastes and jams in Tehran. My grandmother kept us busy this time of the year. “Let’s put those little feet into work,” she used to say to my sister and me as she emptied buckets of Vine tomatoes into deep basins. We removed our socks, rubbed the bathing brush on our feet, and rinsed until the last cluster of soap bubbles vanished into the drain. She watched our brushing ceremony and inspected our feet for any specks of dirt. When she was satisfied with the whiteness of our soles, she hoisted us into the basins. We jumped up and down and stamped the tomatoes to extract the juice. Vine tomatoes squished and screamed under our feet. Their plum, tender and succulent, painted our legs. She boiled the juice and the ambrosial aroma of the boiling tomatoes wafted in the garden. The thickening tomato juice boiled over the sides of the hot cauldron, smearing the tiles of the terrace. When my grandmother removed the gas stove, a striking corona of fiery red drops of paste remained on the tiles. I thought those red coronas were the reason they named my grandparents’ street “the Sun Street”

How I wish I could enter that garden one more time to see those fiery rings. In 2018 I plan a return trip. But my mother tells me — before I go back — that the Sun Street is closed to the public. Nobody knows what has happened to that house since the Islamic government took it from us.
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