Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When my daughter JJ was in elementary school, she had a little friend in Sacramento named Pontea. Both girls attended Sierra Oaks School, a neighborhood school, and sometimes Pontea would come home with JJ after school to play.

I was always happy when she did. Pontea was such a shy, sweet, modest little girl I knew I didn’t have to be worried about mischief when she was around. Pontea was petite, almost frail-looking, with black hair, straight bangs, and flashing dark eyes. I especially remember a pink dress she had, one that tied in the back. She looked so pretty when she wore it.

In the back of my mind, I knew Pontea was from Iran, but I knew it in the same sense that I might have known that some other classmate was from Los Angeles. It didn’t strike me as particularly unusual. Right around that same time we had a nanny, Patti Salemi, who also came from Iran. We all loved Patti. She was great with the kids, responsible and mature. People who came from Iran weren’t exactly unusual. They were part of our lives.

That was in the late 1970’s.

Time passed, we moved, maybe Pontea’s parents did too. I’m not sure exactly what happened to any of them, but we all lost touch. Up until a couple of weeks ago.

Then, through the technological miracle of Facebook, JJ and Pontea reconnected. They even met for lunch and had a wonderful time. Pontea is now married with children of her own. She and JJ still had much in common.

They were both a little surprised to find out one new and unique thing they had in common: both of their mothers are living abroad. I moved to Israel, and Pontea’s mother now lives in Iran.

All of this makes me think: I wonder what would have happened, back then, if some magic genie had appeared and told Pontea’s mother that one day she would be living in Iran, and told me that I would move to Israel.

Honestly? I think I would have done just what Sarah Imanu did – I would have laughed. Back in the 1970’s, living in Israel had not occurred to me.

But here we are, Pontea’s mother and I, both gone our separate ways. To separate countries.

I’m sorry I don’t remember Pontea’s mothers name – I don’t even recall if we actually met, although I think we must have. Moms of kids in Sierra Oaks School usually did know each other, and customarily kept in touch when their children were friends.

Today in Israel, when I read the news and hear the horrific stories coming out of Iran, I find myself thinking about Pontea’s mom. I know what happens here, when Israel is under assault – people from all over wonder about me, wonder how I am, how close to the “action” I’m living.

Iran is a whole lot bigger than Israel, so I’m hoping that Pontea’s mother is living in safety, far from the problems.

Still, I can’t help wondering about her, wishing that I knew more about her – what her life is like, what made her decide to move to Iran. I wonder what she thinks about what’s happening in her country, and whether she strongly sympathizes with one faction or the other. Does she have a contingency plan, if things should get worse?

Or maybe she’s like me – she doesn’t think she needs one.

So here’s to Pontea’s mom, wherever she is: I hope you are safe. I hope you are well. You must be a very strong and interesting woman, and I’m sorry I missed the great opportunity to get to know you better, back then, when I had the chance. I missed that chance, and I regret it.

More than anything, though, I hope that He who watches over us all will take care of you and keep you safe. For the sake of both of our daughters.


  1. A touching story, which reminded me of something from my own past.
    In 1991, during the first Gulf War, I was living in Toronto. Previously, after high school I had made Aliyah to Israel and had spent eight years, including full army service. I was now in North America, knowing that I'd someday return to Israel. The scud missiles shot from Iraq began raining down on Israel. For me life in Toronto couldn't go on as usual, with concern about friends and relatives I had left behind.
    Working at the security desk at the condo building I was living in was an young man from Iraq. His parents were still in Iraq, and he was no less concerned than I was. Every evening after his shift ended we would take a short-wave radio up to the roof of the building and spend the nights searching the airwaves for any authentic information we could find on what was going on in Israel and Iraq. The bond shared between us during those difficult days was among the strongest I have ever experienced.

  2. Whoa, B.D.! What a story!

    I can just picture it. And very well told, too.

    This is the kind of human interest tale that used to make the Reader's Digest such an intriguing little book. Your story says more about you and the other guy, about Iraq and Israel, about the reality of living in troubled times -- not to mention troubled countries -- than anything I've read.

    Kol hakavod, B.D. Thank you so much for posting it.

  3. Thanks Mom! I hope she is well too!

    Love you!

  4. What a beautiful story! This is Pantea.. and I am touched by the memory of JJ and I as kids! I was so delighted to reconnect with your daughter as she is such an amazing person (as well you know). Thank you for all the wonderful well wishes on me as well as my mom. She is doing well over there even with all the turmoil. I think its hard being over here in the states where we are at the mercy of our media to depict what is going on over there.. although they are not too off.. its not quite as bad as they make it seem. She is living in the outskirts of Tehran which puts her out of harms way I believe (at least thats what she tells me :).

    In any case thank you for thinking of us and putting us in your blog. I look forward to JJ and I continuing our friendship that we started at such an early age. Heres' to getting to see you again real soon~
    Take care and be safe!