On Acceptance Paula Laurel Jackson Copyright 2012
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