Once, when I was five.
(Pictured here with my cousin, Afshin, at his mother's/my father's sister's apartment in Tehran. All other pictures are in my parents' hometown of Maragheh unless otherwise specified. I wore that Barbie nightgown often.)
(Pictured here with my cousin, Parmeda, my mother's half-sister's daughter.)
Once, when I was ten.
(Pictured here with my mother's family, including her half-sister Sonya, her mother Eqhbal, and her uncle Taqhoob.)
(Pictured here on the back of my uncle Reza's/dad's brother's motorcycle. That's my little sister in front. I was small for my age so I didn't cover myself even though I was supposed to begin doing so at age 9
Once, when I was fifteen.
(Pictured with my uncle Reza's wife, Sohaila, my mother, and my father's sisters Mehri and Rouhan, in the neighborhood of my aunt Hajiyeh's (not pictured) villa by the Caspian Sea in northern Iran. As you can see, I had to start covering my hair, but not all of it.)
(Pictured here with my cousin's daughter, Mahsa, on the night of our big dinner party. We had all gotten our hair done for the occaision so I was feeling extra special besides being one of the guests of honor. Only women attended.)
And now I am twenty.
This means that after this summer, I will have spent time with my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other extended family members four times in my entire life. Now that I'm older I appreciate the pull of family, that incandescent and innate love you feel for them no matter how often you see them. I can't wait to get to know them again.