The house my parents sold stood on one of the busiest streets of Babol, a city in the north of Iran that is well known for its fresh air. Because the city is located in the middle of a jungle and near the Caspian Sea, the weather is humid and the vegetation lush. Our house was a two-story house with big yards in the front and back, and I spent most of my childhood in those yards raising a dozen cats and kittens. I still remember every detail of that place, from the chipped pavement to the drawings I did on the trees; and when I close my eyes, I can see it so clearly that it is as if I am there once again.
To get to the main door of the house, you pass through the backyard, which is enormous and divided into two uneven parts by a marbled pathway. When you enter the backyard, on your right side, there is a flight of purple iron stairs that lead to the house, and behind those stairs, a rectangular garden. Three chimonanthus trees stand at the back of the garden, with the middle one being the tallest and reaching three meters. Around it stand two smaller chimonanthus trees about two meters high. In winter, the scent of their blossoms is intoxicating — a refreshingly sweet lemony fragrance. In front of the chimonanthus trees, grows a slim greengage tree that stands close to the staircase. In the spring, you can pick the delicious greengages from the tree by climbing the stairs.
On the left side of the trees, in the corner of the wall, grows a raspberry bush. In summer, it has dark purple and hot pink raspberries that are sour but still delicious. In front of the raspberry bush, grow some pink, yellow, and white Marvel-of-Peru flowers that bloom only at night. On the left side of the marbled pathway stretches another garden. This garden is considerably larger than the one on the right side. It contains older trees and it was here that I spent most of my time as a child.
The garden on the left side of the pathway is three times larger than the right side. There are four two-meter-tall pomegranate trees at the front of the garden, two of them are sour pomegranate trees and one is sweet. The trees form a line and block the view of the small water hose used to water the garden. The rusty old water hose sits on a square ceramic base to prevent puddles of muddy water from forming. At the back of the garden stands a fig tree as big as an elephant and with an elephant-like shape. It has two trunks that look just like the legs of an elephant, which are connected by a branch as thick as an elephant's trunk. Because of the large and small branches that surround it, the horizontal branch is the perfect place to lie and rest, especially in the summer when no light penetrates the countless leaves and branches.
The left side of the garden looks like a rectangular shape at first, but, in reality, it sits on top of a big square. To explore the whole garden, you have to follow a narrow trail on the left side of the garden, which leads to the back of the yard. This patchy footpath is shaped by the small broken pieces of the same marble ceramics used for the main pathway of the yards. The ceramic patches lead to a swing that hangs from one of the big branches of the fig tree. My father made it himself, with just a piece of wood and some green ropes. The swing is the heart of the garden. Further along the trail, you will see two big persimmon trees facing each other. Although they look thinner than the fig tree, they are the tallest trees in the yard, even taller than our two-story house. During the years we lived there, I never saw the tips of their branches, for in summer they were laden with figs and persimmons.
Looking back, I wish I had appreciated that backyard more — the trees, the leaves, the flowers, and the cats that birthed kittens in every nook and cranny. Even though the yard could smell like vinegar when fruit fell to the ground and rotted, in those days I could not think of anywhere I would rather be. The irony is that even though I spent all my time in that garden, I never once tasted a persimmon from our tree; and, in total, I believe I have eaten only three or four figs in my entire life. I remember not liking the sweet taste of the fruit or the crunchy sound the seeds made, but now I would love to taste those figs, again and again. Even after all these years, I regret not enjoying those fruits more, and, in winter, I miss the smell of chimonanthus trees so much that sometimes I am overcome with sadness. Such trees are rare, and I wonder if I will ever get to smell one again. Sadly, after we sold our house, all the chimonanthus trees were cut down. I wish I had saved at least a leaf from those trees that I could hold in my hand, just for memory’s sake.