I’ve always struggled with Mother’s Day. Too pink, too saccharine, too much forced happiness when the reality so often cloaks a good deal of ambivalence, sadness, and hidden anger. That all changed when I opened our Little Free Library on the front fence yesterday and discovered Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi’s extraordinary graphic memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In bold black and white images she tells her story of her life from age six to fourteen during the tumultuous years that saw the overthrow of the Shah, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the horrors and destruction of families and culture during the war with Iraq. Her story, told through a child’s eyes, is packed with tender vignettes of love, faith, and perseverance – of how we humans soldier on, carving tiny moments of meaning from life’s granite in the face of violence, adversity and absurdity. When her parents decide, caving in with unspoken grief, to send Marjane to safety in Germany, she spends one last night with her beloved grandmother.
That page stopped me cold. Why isn’t there a Grandmother’s Day, I wondered? How many of us can recall snuggling on our grandmother’s bosom, huddling against that softness with an unutterable reassurance of comfort and safety entirely different, maybe even deeper, than what we shared with our mother? I turned the pages transfixed, still standing at the front fence, unable to stop reading. Slowly, my personal animosity to Mother’s Day began to shift. I felt my heart unlock, expand, ungrinch. Mother’s Day became Our Day. Daughter’s and Auntie’s and Sister’s and Cousin’s Day. I turned back to the frontispiece to find a mini, bullet-pointed, book report, presumably written by the book’s previous owner.