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On  Acceptance               Paula  Laurel  Jackson   Copyright  2012  

On  Acceptance    

You  never  really  understand  a  person  until  you  consider  things  from  his  point  of   view  -­‐  until  you  climb  into  his  skin  and  walk  around  in  it.   To  Kill  a  Mockingbird    

  Each  time  I  eat  Persian  food  I  am  reminded  of  one  particular  neighbour  I  had  when  I  was   eight  years  old.  This  particular  neighbour  was  not  at  all  popular  in  the  area-­‐to  put  it   kindly.  In  fact,  her  family  was  doomed  way  before  they  actually  moved  into  the  house.   Word  had  it,  at  least  amongst  the  older  children  on  my  street,  that  “communists,”   “refugees”,  “foreigners,”  were  moving  in.  These  terms  meant  nothing  to  us  and  could   equally  have  been  termed  “demons”,  “witches”,  or  “extra-­‐terrestrial  creatures.  The  fact   that  we  (the  younger  children),  had  no  idea,  no  clue  as  to  what  they  were  saying.  We   made  a  pact,  however,  that  these  new  neighbours  should,  at  all  costs-­‐be  avoided.     No  Matter  what!     I  was  just  born  a  curious  soul  and  never  stopped  asking  questions.  Things  always  had  to   make  sense  to  me,  and  if  they  did  not,  I  would  enquire  further,  investigate    and   investigate  until  I  found  what  I  was  looking  for.  So,  in  my  usual  style,  I  asked  why  these   people  should  be  avoided.  All  sorts  of  creative  stories  would  be  invented  to  justify  the   decision  to  “avoid”.  I  remember  feeling  confused,  and  felt  simply  wrong  about  this,  and   the  more  I  enquired,  the  more  confused  I  got.  At  some  point  had  reached  a  dead-­‐end   and  gained  the  reputation  of  being  annoying,  and  so  I  stopped  the  questions.       I  did,  however,  discovered  that  the  family  had  two  children,  who  were  around  my  age.   They  had  to  flee  from  some  “far-­‐off  land”  and  had  would  be  settling  right  on  “our   street”.     Exactly  when  they  would  arrive,  no-­‐one  had  any  idea.  So,  we  decided  that  each  of  us   would  go  by  and  investigate  the  house  for  signs  to  figure  things  out.  The  house  remained   empty  and  untouched  for  weeks,  and  I  grew  rather  bored  of  the  plan.  I  even  thought   that  the  family  more  than  likely  had  changed  their  minds  to  move  onto  our  street.     Copyright  2012  Paula  Laurel  Jackson  


It  was  a  couple  for  weeks  before  school  from  the  summer  holidays      that  we  noticed   movement  within  the  house.  We  suddenly  noticed  hanging  in  front  of  the  window,  and   as  much  as  we  peered  in  to  see  what  was  behind  those  curtains,  nothing  was  to  bee   seen.  The  odd  thing  was  that  no-­‐one  had  seen  any  moving  trucks  or  heard  anything  to   indicate  that  they  had  moved  in.     Where  was  the  family?!  Where  were  the  kids?!   And  then  the  stories  began  once  again.  The  older  kids  told  us  that  they  had  to  move  in   secretly  over-­‐night  so  as  not  to  get  caught.  They  told  us  that  if  any  of  us  caught  sight  of   their  eyes,  we  would  burn  away  and  die.  The  stories  went  on  and  on  and  we  were   terrified.     One  of  my  neighbours-­‐an  older  girl  (who  really  was  the  boss  of  all  children  on  our   street),  ran  back  to  us  one  day  reporting  that  she  had  actually  caught  sight  of  the  new   neighbours.  She  was  eager  to  share  her  story  and  charged  us  each  a  dime  to  hear  the   story  first-­‐hand  (She  must  be  quite  a  business  woman  by  now!).       We  all  huddled  in  excitement  to  hear  about  these  “characters”-­‐and  each  and  every  one   of  us  wanted  to  hear  all  of  the  “gory”  details.  She  said  that  she  saw  two  adults,  and  they   were  earning  black-­‐a  sure  sign  that  they  were  up  to  something.  She  told  us  that  they   were  speaking  an  alien  language  to  each  other,  which  she  heard,  although  they  did  not   even  open  their  mouths.  It  was  as  if  they  could  just  talk  out  loud  by  thinking  about  it.  I   found  this  par  rather  interesting  and  imagine  what  it  would  be  like  to  have  this  faculty.   But  my  neighbour  assured  us  that  this  was  not  a  good  thing.     When  I  asked  if  she  had  seen  the  two  children,  she  told  us  that  they  would  not  be   coming.  They  had  been  kidnapped  on  their  way  to  our  neighbourhood  and  will  never  be   seen  again.  She  continued  for  ages  about  the  family  and  we  all  sat  there  listening,  saying   not  a  word.  At  one  point,  my  little  brain  could  not  take  anymore  and  I  stopped  listening.   That  night,  however,  I  had  horrific  nightmares.       The  older  children  made  a  pact  that  the  house  would  be  under  surveillance  constantly-­‐ well,  at  least  for  the  time  that  they  were  not  in  school  and  we  aloud  out.  They  had  all   sorts  of  equipment  which  they  took  from  their  respective  homes-­‐binoculars,   boomerangs,  pebble  machine  guns,  cameras……   Copyright  2012  Paula  Laurel  Jackson  


I  was  not  certain  as  to  which  side  I  was  most  frightened  of-­‐“our  side”  or  “their  side.       Each  time  my  friends  and  I  passed  by  the  “house”,  we  would  run  by  as  quickly  as   possible-­‐of  course  peering  into  the  window  to  see  if  we  cold  catch  but  a  glimpse  of  the   inhabitants.   I  thought  nearly  daily  about  the  poor  children  and  how  they  may  have  been  kidnapped.  I   imagined  that  it  would  have  been  me  that  had  been  kidnapped  and  would  wake  up  each   morning  in  tears.       Once  the  summer  had  given  way  to  fall  and  school  had  commenced,  I  slowly  forgot   about  the  “horror  house”,  and  the  lost  children-­‐although  we  still  ran  by  the  house  each   time  as  quickly  as  possible.  It  had  simply  become  habit.     The  school  year  started  off  as  usual.  I  had  my  friends  and  I  saw  a  few  new  faces.  One  of   those  new  faces  just  happened  to  have  been  in  nearly  all  of  my  classes,  including   orchestra,  which  was  rare!  So,  I  made  friends  with  her  immediately.       As  destiny  would  have  it,  this  new  friend  of  mine  was  my  new  neighbour-­‐THE  neighbour,   who  had  lived  in  THE  house!  When  I  first  discovered  this,  I  watched  her  in  a  weird   manner,  wondering,  considering…and  then  I  shared  with  her  everything  that  I  had  heard   about  her  since  the  start  of  summer.  She  was  excited  to  know  that  she  was  famous.  The   fact  was  however,  that  she  was  not  kidnapped.  She  and  her  brother  had  been  visiting   their  father  and  his  new  wife  over  the  summer  in  another  part  of  the  country,  and   moved  in  to  live  with  her  mother  just  in  time  for  school.     I  felt  so  deeply  relieved  at  what  she  told  me  more  than  I  could  have  possibly  expressed   in  words.    I  walked  her  home  from  school  and  then  ran  over  to  tell  all  of  the  other   neighbourhood  children  the  great  news  (without  charging  them).  For  some  reason,   however,  they  wanted  to  hold  onto  these  ideas  in  their  head  that  these  people  were  to   be  avoided,  and  started  making  fun  of  me  for  becoming  friends  with  her.  They  said  that   the  family  had  now  converted  me,  and  so  I  was  also  to  be  avoided  at  all  times.     Copyright  2012  Paula  Laurel  Jackson  


What?!   I  was  suddenly  on  the  “other  side”.       As  much  as  it  hurt  me,  and  I  could  not  imagine  not  having  these  people  to  hang  out  with,   I  soon  became  more  and  more  involved  with  my  new  friend.     I  admired  her  for  her  wit,  and  her  strength  and  the  fact  that  she  did  not  care  about  what   others  thought  about  her  or  her  family.  Her  mother  told  us  since  they  come  from  a   country,  a  place  where  most  people  in  our  neighbourhood  knew  nothing  about,  they  felt   fear  and  were  acting  out  of  ignorance.  They  are  afraid  of  what  they  do  not  know.     As  our  friendship  progressed,  I  learned  to  value  the  concept  of    honesty,  dedication,   awareness,  peace,  will-­‐power  and  faith.  Our  friendship  was  short,  as  my  family  then  left   the  country  after  a  year.  However,  what  time  we  spent  together  was  sweet  and  full  of   memories  which  I  still  keep  in  my  heart  today.   What  I  recall  most  was  her  mother’s  cooking,  and  our  discussions  we  shared  over  the   meals.  I  shall  never  forget  how  welcomed  I  felt  within  her  home-­‐with  its  beautifully   ornate  decor  and  sweet  smells  always  embracing  me.  Even  the  plates  were  as  exciting  as   the  food  itself.  I  remember  eating  the  delicious  warm  flat  bread,  the  humus  and   aubergine  spreads,  and  wonderful  Khoresh-­‐e  Fesenjan    stew,  with  a  brown  thick  sweet   and  sour  sauce  with  walnuts  and  pomegranate  sprinkled  on  top.  The  taste  was  divine   and  unlike  anything  I  had  eaten  before  that  occasion.  It  was  rich,  intense,  sweet,  sour,   tangy,  nutty,  thick  and  wholesome  and  I  adored  it!     One  weekend,  we  watched  a  movie  together  and  one,  which  has  become  my  most   favourite  of  all  times:  to  Kill  a  Mockingbird.   As  the  movie  ended,  we  both  looked  at  each  other  each  with  tears  in  our  eyes.    Without   saying  a  word,  we  hugged  each  other  knowing  exactly  what  the  other  was  thinking.     And  then  the  words  of  Atticus  hit  us  both,  and  I  wished  so  badly  that  I  could  run  out  to   all  of  the  neighbourhood  kids  and  say:  You  never  really  understand  a  person  until  you   consider  things  from  his  point  of  view  -­‐  until  you  climb  into  his  skin  and  walk  around  in  it.   They  would  all  have  loved  my  new  friend,  if  only  they  would  allow  themselves  to  open   Copyright  2012  Paula  Laurel  Jackson  


up.  She  was  really  the  coolest  person!!   But  the  bottom  line  was  that  they  were  simply  frightened  and  ignorant.  I  realised  then   how  weak  they  were,  and  how  easy  it  as  for  them  to  point  the  finger  at  “the  other”   when  really  the  “other”  is  no  different  than  ourselves.     I  remember  telling  her  that  I  wish  everybody  could  have  had  one  tiny  taste  of  her  mom’s   cooking,  and  they  would  be  completely  different.  We  would  laugh  and  imagine  her   mother’s  food  having  special  “peace  powers”  to  erase  all  bad  thoughts,  prejudices,  and   judgments  from  peoples’  minds.   If  only!    

Copyright  2012  Paula  Laurel  Jackson  


On acceptance