story and photo
by Lisa M. Luck
Lighthouse Bakery, East Main Street, Mystic, sits back from the street. It’s housed in a barn-shaped two-story building with a loose-gravel parking lot, and a blinking neon open sign. Metal chairs, marble counter tops and a TV set to news inhabits the restaurant. Cream puffs, cookies, and baklava adorn the display cases. The bakery belongs to Massoud Kalkhoran, an immigrant from Iran, now a U.S. citizen since October 25, 2017. He makes everything from scratch.
In Iran, he owned an import business and he was an electrician but when an “immigrant moves to another country, you’re not able to do what you were doing,” he said. “It’s not you to choose what you’ll work at because the rules are different.” He never thought about being a baker but it supports his family.
Massoud came here from Iran with his wife, Mercedes and his six week old son, Kameal in 1998. The “U.S. has more opportunities” he states. He came to the U.S. because, “I had no other choice. My wife’s family was here and after the Revolution in Iran (from 1978-1979) the culture was different and my wife was unhappy.” He started the process in Istanbul, Turkey to move to the United States a full year beforehand which involved filling out numerous forms, paying fees, and answering questions about why he wanted to come to the U.S. Back in 1998, he received his Green Card at JF Kennedy airport.
Another reason Massoud came to the U.S. was for the education for his children, Kameal, now 19 and Kamal, 16. The U.S. culture touts education, he notes. “Starting a new life as an adult is tough. There’s a better future with education. There’s a chance to get educated in Iran but not necessarily a chance to use it.” Kameal, who took a year off to help his father at the bakery, will attend college next year to pursue being a lawyer. Kamel, a junior at Fitch High School, loves to read books and study will attend right after graduation.
The process for citizenship, he describes, required applying by filling out forms. Then Immigration interviewed him by asking questions about U.S. History, the Constitution, Amendments and the U.S. Government. They also asked, “Have you ever used guns? Have you been in Mexico or Canada? They know what countries you’ve been to. Once when my passport expired, they asked me what countries I had been to and they knew where I’ve been” by the ones he omitted. “Honesty is the only thing that helps you, not just for citizenship, or a green card but everywhere.” In three weeks, he received a letter about the swearing-in ceremony.
Massoud well remembers that day of his swearing-in ceremony; there were fifty-five people of “all different colors, nationalities, African, Asian, Hispanic, and I was the only Iranian.” Massoud talked to the judge after the ceremony and said, “I was the luckiest one.” Massoud became a citizen so that he wouldn’t be separated from his sons.
He still misses Iran though. “There’s so many things that you’d have to write a book about it,” he jokes. He talks to his mom everyday as well as his brothers. He misses the culture and the food especially the food. “Nobody cooks like my mother,” he says as he reminisces about her gourmet dishes such as sabzi, a vegetable dish, and bademjan, an eggplant and tomato stew. He then mentions how good the caviar tastes from the Caspian Sea.
Massoud wishes “good luck to all the immigrant people out there.” He knows how hard the process is not just for citizenship but learning the language too. When he first arrived, he heard others speaking English so fast and said, “God, I’m not gonna survive.” But survive he did. “I started with nothing and ended up here.” And he has flourished.