Bahareh Hajesfandiari

An Empty House in Winnipeg 

We were a family of three on this flight, on our way back to our home in Winnipeg. No one has the heart to go and see our house in Winnipeg, now it’s left there on its own. There is a park opposite the house, where Anisa used to run. There is a courtyard where the three of us would have breakfast. They are all still there. But we….

Mirmohammadmehdi was born in Tabriz’s Sina Hospital in 1976. They called him Mehdi. His family was middle class, his father worked in the National Bank and his mother was a teacher. Three kids were born into this family. Mehdi was the middle one: Zahra, Mehdi, Maryam.

Bahareh was born in Hamedan in late 1978. Hers was also a middle-class family. She was a hard-working student who studied in elite Farzanegan Schools, made it to among the top 1000 students in the national examinations, and got onto the University of Tehran’s civil engineering program.

Due to his father’s job, Mehdi lived in many cities in the Azerbaijan region: Salmas, Tabriz and Zanjan. His maternal and paternal city was Khoy. Khoy’s summers and sunflowers remember him well. He was also a talented student, who enrolled in the planning and engineering program at the University of Tehran.

Mehdi and Bahareh met in Tehran in 2000. They were both studying for masters degrees in management. Mehdi had worked for some years building dams and roads. But his passion was for reading and learning. Bahareh was the same.

In the fall of 2003, they got married. Bahareh travelled regularly to the city of Shoosh in southwestern Iran and taught at the university there. She also worked for construction companies. After a while, Mehdi migrated to Qazvin and they lived there together. Bahareh was a project manager in the regional water organization of Qazvin, while Mehdi, with all the experience he had gained, also got into construction. When Anisa was born in 2009, the pair were even happier.

My name is Anisa. I am a happy girl who loves songs and music. At four years old, I could recite the poetry of Hooshang Ebtehaj. I know local Iranian dances, and at weddings in Iran, I’d amaze everyone with them. My mother plays the Daf. She writes poetry. Sometimes, she puts a piece of wood in black ink and draws shapes on a paper that, according to her, are the poems of Hafiz. Hafiz knows his poetry. My mother reads his poems for me. They are difficult, but I like how they sound.

My name is Anisa. When they ask me what disciplines I like, I have only one answer: taekwondo. In my three years in Canada, I got taekwondo belts, one after the other. In my brief trip to Iran, I taught my grandmother, grandfather and aunties all the moves, and encouraged them to exercise.

My name is Anisa: a member of a family of three that no longer exists. I used to run in that courtyard. In the evenings, my parents would take my hand and we’d go to the park to see the brown dog. I love animals and have kept pets since my early years.

I play the guitar. I speak Persian, French and English. When my cousin cries in Vancouver, I play the guitar for him on WhatsApp and sing. I am careful not to let my hair cover my eyes.

My name is Anisa. My family of three was visiting Iran to see my grandfathers and grandmothers. They keep telling me how much I’ve grown. I keep everyone busy with my tricks.

I love Iran, and I know this from watching the series Hashag Khale Sooskeh. On the weekends in Winnipeg, I attend Persian language classes. My parents come and teach Persian voluntarily even though they are both civil engineers. My mom builds tall buildings. The boss at Marwest, mom’s last workplace, wrote that she was always calm, always had a smile, and was very talented and competent, and that she was “an absolute gem of a human being”.

My daddy makes tall buildings too. He travels to cities, colder and farther away, but he never gets tired and is always smiling. I ask him if things are scary from up there. He laughs and says, “The brown dog will be there today, Anisa. Want to go to the park? Don’t you want to be a vet?” And so the three of us go to the park. But we come back because the brown dog who is going to make me a vet is not there that day. I miss home. I want to go through my parents’ wedding photo album and ask, “Why am I not in the picture?”

We lived in Canada for three years. There weren’t many Iranians out here. It was mostly us. The three of us. It snowed. Three times. The summer came. Three times. Last fall, I celebrated my tenth birthday. But we never saw the fourth snow. My mother had said it’d come in a blink. I closed my eyes, as if for a blink, and heard an airplane take off.

Translator: Arash Azizi
Editor: Hannah Somerville
With the support of

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