A visit to New York needs no excuse, but for those of us who needed one, the IAW conference of this October provided the best. To attend these conferences has become my routine. Packing is easy for I have come to terms with the fact that, no matter what I wear, I’m going to be dazzled by the latest fashions and stunning accessories of most ladies. I pack my books, bookmarks, and posters before hitting the road.
Way back when we held the very first conference, everything seemed new. Not only did I meet celebrities, but to be in the same room with so many successful Iranian-American women proved to be an overwhelming experience. By now I try to prepare that one of these days I’ll get used to it and that their stories may no longer be all that poignant. But once again, I’m wrong.
I don’t know too many people in New York, and as luck has it, the few that I do know are out of town. The magnificent Marriott Marquis hotel receives me as if I’m the only guest they expect. Soon I’m settled into a comfortable room, overlooking the “apple”, which I have somehow forgotten how “big” it is. Neon lights flash on Broadway and this being a Saturday, Time Square is filled with a crowd almost as big as any I’ve seen on TV at New Year’s Eve. I already have tickets to see a couple of Broadway plays while I have the chance.
On Sunday, I get up early and head down to the sixth floor. The very lovely Ferial has already selected my table and the volunteer ladies in their elegant black attires – adorned with the IAW silk scarves– are taking care of registration and welcoming the attendees. A lovely lady hands me my tote bag filled with information packages as well as some goodies while another offers to help me set up. We’re definitely off to a great start.
As I look at six hundred ladies – and a few gentlemen – in that huge ballroom, I am suddenly conscious of how few of them I know. There are some familiar faces, but like myself, they have traveled here all the way from the West Coast. There are hundreds of new faces. What am I doing here so far away from home?
I try to divert my attention to the slides of famous Iranian women who have already left their marks. Some of them are no longer with us. Why is it that we appreciate those who are gone so much more than those who are still among us? The mention of some big names make me emotional, but then I see other familiar faces who are alive and well; as a matter of fact, a few happen to be right here. So maybe the old trend of “worshipping the dead” has changed. The poignant moment comes when the founder of IAW – Maryam Khosravani – gives her eloquent welcome speech. She concludes by saying, “This isn’t about me, or you, or any particular group. It is all of us joining hands with our courageous sisters in Iran . . .” And at that moment, there’s no doubt in my mind that I truly belong here.
I am no longer a visitor thousands of miles away from home. This is my community. I am one with them and always will be, no matter where we meet. An old cliché comes to mind, “Home is where the heart is.” I blink the tears away and relax in my chair at a table where I still don’t know anyone’s name. My heart is here. I’m really home.