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
"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."