The farm in Neyshabur, Iran, with its cows, chickens, ducks, and vegetables, is heavenly for a small child. Robab Saniee delights in helping with chores, astonished at her grandmother’s energy. Her grandmother ascribed her strength to her simple black shoes. They are magical, she explains. The shoes work their magic to help Robab Saniee cope with illness, loss, and change.
I was born in an average family in Neyshabour, northeast Iran, and grew up with my sister and two brothers. My grandparents lived on a farm not far away. Their farm was heaven on earth. They had cows, chickens, and ducks. They had vegetables too: carrots, cabbages, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and garlic.
I saw my grandmother working hard every day. She woke up early. After saying her prayers, she prepared breakfast and then went out to feed the animals and water the plants. l enjoyed accompanying her, but after a few minutes, l felt exhausted, so I fell asleep on the piles of hay in the barn. But when I woke up, I saw her, still at work. One day I asked her, “How can you work so hard and not get tired?”
She said, “Because of my shoes, darling. They are magical. When I wear them, they give me lots of strength and energy.”
I looked at her shoes. They seemed very humble to me, simple black shoes made of plastic with red cotton cushions inside. I didn’t believe her. “Those shoes? That’s impossible!”
She responded, with a big smile, “Sometimes the simplest things are the most extraordinary.”
I didn’t believe her at all.
One day I asked her, “Will you let me try your shoes?” I really wanted to know how they worked.
She answered, “Ok, but not now.”
Two years later, I caught typhoid fever. The village doctor gave up on me. Everybody in the village, from neighbours to friends and family, started to show their sympathy and pity, which made the whole situation even worse. One day my grandmother visited and comforted me with her kind words. Before she left, she gave me a box and said, “You’ll get well soon. Don’t worry, darling.”
When I opened the box, I was excited. There were her magical shoes! I wore them, and I felt better straight away. It was as if I had absorbed all their powers. I decided to name them Magic Mehri after my grandmother.
After two days, my mom gave me a letter from my grandmother.
“My dear Robab, I am ashamed of myself for lying to you. I liked my shoes. They comforted me and motivated me to work harder. I felt happy and useful, so they seemed magical to me.”
Just two weeks after I wore those magical shoes, I began to get better. After a month, my parents took me to the doctor. He was astonished at how I had defeated that horrible disease. He said to my parents, “I think all your prayers have paid off.” I knew it was not their prayers. It was my grandmother’s magical shoes. But I didn’t say anything. I wanted to say this to her myself.
So I started asking my parents to go and see Grandmother. They ignored my request. I became suspicious, so I decided to visit her on my own. One day I broke my piggy bank to buy a bus ticket. After three hours, I reached the farm. My parents were already there, worried and angry. I started to cry and said, “I want to see my grandma.” That was when I found out that she had passed away.
My grandmother was hardworking and happy. She encouraged me to be strong. That’s why my husband and I decided to challenge ourselves and live in different countries to learn about the world. We lived in France for five years, then went back to Iran for 13 years. At that point, we moved to Malaysia and lived there for six years. Next, my journey brought me to Canada, and I’m ready to learn many more things. In my Magic Mehri shoes.
ROBAB SANIEE is married and has two sons. She lived in Calgary for one year and now lives in Sherbrooke, Quebec. She has a bachelor’s degree in French translation and works as a French translator for newcomers with the Society of New Arrivals. In her spare time she bakes cakes and cookies.