Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"So Tell Me the Truth..."

What with my having had one foot in the grave for a week, the Bit getting sick immediately after and then deciding to push out double fangs, I've been unable to devote time to writing about my first Mother's Day. There are a few things I want to remember. Snippets in time. We'll start with Saturday, 13 May 2005:

It is the annual Mayfest at one of the Armenian churches in San Francisco. My great-grandfather was the second bodvelli (minister) of this church and my grandmother was a member. My mother considers it her church as well, though she only comes down from Petaluma for special events. But a few other family members are active in the congregation.

Every year my mother tries to get me to go to Mayfest, the church's pre-Mother's Day luncheon. Every year I weasel out regretfully decline. This year my mother got smart. Two weeks ago she phoned.

"I got us both tickets to the Mayfest. It starts promptly at noon. Be there half an hour early."

And she would remind me every few days.

"They have a highchair for Bit. I already paid for the tickets. Don't forget to leave plenty of time for traffic."

And we went. And it was lovely. I saw and spoke with women who grew up with my grandmother, who remembered my great-grandfather, who spoke fondly of my mother. I met the new bodvelli from Syria, a huge jovial teddy bear of a man with a black beard and a booming voice who swept Bit and I up in a hug as he greeted us with a mixture of Armenian and English. We were entertained by the children from the Armenian school from next door who serenaded us with a few Armenian songs and performed a Mother's Day skit, also in Armenian.

I surprised and pleased my mother by not wearing black. She is still talking about that.

But the highlight? Oh the highlight! It cannot and will not be topped anytime soon.

There was a woman at the next table named Hasmig, a 91 year old who didn't look a day over 70 (Armenians are notoriously long-lived. We are Methuselah's children. But that is another story). Hasmig leaned across the gap separating our tables to coo at Bit.

"She has blue eyes," Hasmig remarked. "That is so rare for an Armenian to have blue eyes."

She suddenly seemed to notice Arabis' hair for the first time, which made her gasp.

"Such blonde hair! And it is straight!" Her brow furrowed as she studied my face, then looked back at Bit.

Hasmig took me by the arm and pulled me to her conspiratorially, glancing left and right before whispering, "So tell me the truth...did you cheat on your husband?"

I couldn't help myself. The laugh burst forth so loud, causing a few women to look around.

"No, no, no," I sputtered. "He's not Armenian. He's Irish."

"Ahhhhh. Good. It's alright then."

Arabis and Mama


Jill said...

Too funny!

My husband and I look like she and he clones of eachother, so if we ever had a biological child who wasn't blue-eyed, pale-skinned, and unusually tall than that would for sure mean that I cheated.

I never heard the word bodvelli before. A good word to know.

Palette said...

It is so strange, how the advent of children suddenly bring a softness and pliability to what may have been a walled-up heart. I remember 10 years ago, walking around with Ewan as a baby and the world was friendly and I was friendly and it was strange and uncomfortable and wonderful all at once. From experience I can tell you that when middle easterners and the celts have babies, the babies are beautiful. But obviously you already know that!