On Tuesday night, I jumped over fire. Mr. Food Musings and I had gathered at the Persian Center in Berkeley, along with a few of our friends and a crowd of Iranian-Americans, to celebrate Charshanbeh Soori in anticipation of Persian New Year on March 21st. Persian New Year coincides with the spring equinox, and the Tuesday night prior, people gather in the streets -- here, on a side street in Berkeley -- to feast on a thick bean and noodle soup called Ash-e Resht-e and kebabs served with grilled tomatoes and Thai basil. Then they light a series of fires, and everyone lines up to jump over them. It's a way of wiping the slate clean for a new year, leaving all your old problems behind and welcoming health and happiness into the year ahead.
After the kind of year we had, you'd think Mr. FM and I would have arrived dressed in firemen's costumes, but the truth is, as we munched our kebabs in the twilight, using a corner of the sidewalk for a table and chairs, we were feeling a bit nervous. Jump over a towering flame? Us? Mr. FM looked at me warily. "I'm not sure I should do it," he said. I knew what he meant. His balance is still beyond terrible, and if he were to falter and fall in the fire? Well, that wouldn't be a good way to start the year. F. reassured us that the fires were tiny, and so we got in line with everyone else and inched our way forward. As I often do when I face down my fears, I focused on the weakest people around: the children. They love this part of the night best, often lining up to jump over and over again. I figure, if they can do it, I can do it. (Or more accurately, if the grown-ups allow them to do it, I will have to do it or lose face.)
Our plan was for me to stand next to Mr. FM, my hand on his back, and help him over the small fires. (They only burn about 3-4 inches off the ground.) Then I would duck into line, hop the fire, and we'd continue on to the next one. Forget about reciting "Sorkhee-eh tow az man, zardee-eh man az tow," as we went -- we'd be doing well not to go splat in the mini-infernos.
But as Mr. FM's time approached, he turned to me and said, "I think I can do it." And then he hopped over the three small fires. They were pretty wobbly hops, and my heart sort of leapt in my throat each time he leapt over the flame in front of him. I kept my arms half out-stretched to catch him if he tottered backwards, but he didn't need me. It was over before we knew it, and actually quite fun.
Then we went back to F's apartment and drank lots of wine.
(Well, how did you expect the night to end?)