Laura Merage – TRANSCRIPT
Daughter of mine, hear me out. I was born in Tehran, Iran and although I hated school, I knew that for as long as I stayed in school, I would be safe from harm’s way.
Somehow, I knew that school was the answer to my future. But the time I was 15 years old, I was at the risk of having to drop out. My grades were very poor. I was forced to do the one thing, the one thing that was unforgivable in my family, and that was to lie. See, I was desperate to leave Iran. I wanted the same opportunity as my two older brothers who left before me to come to the United States and continue their education.
So I lied to my parents about my academic grades and forced them to send me away. You see, my grandmother Zulekha, my father’s mother, was married off at the age of 12. Twelve. She was so young that she fell asleep at her own wedding party and she had to be picked up, carried away, and tucked into bed as the party continued without her. She gave birth to my father at the age of 15.
She had no education and had to learn how to dial on a rotary telephone so as not to be totally isolated when they left the Jewish ghetto. And yet she was a strong woman and found her independence in her own way. She cared a lot about education and she worked really hard to help strangers in the community. My mother’s mother, grandmother Heshmat, was also married off at the age of 12. She gave birth to her first child, a son, at the age of 13.
Thirteen! Daughter, you haven’t seen this photograph. Here she is with seven out of her eight children, with six out of her seven children, and she’s only 30 years old. She looks like she could be 65. By the time she was 35 years old, she was pregnant with her eighth child. I cannot even imagine the desperation she must have felt.
A desperation that caused her to do something that was unforgivable, very difficult, at the time. She died of an infection caused by a back alley abortion at the age of 35. Then there was my own sister. My sister only eight years older than me. She was engaged at the age of 14 and married when she was 16.