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When the Present Is Blessed by the Past

The wisdom and sayings from our past keep popping into my memory, causing a warm feeling of connection to my parents from long ago.

For about two weeks, my left eye had an occasional annoying twitch and my mother’s superstitious accounting for that twitching immediately came to mind.

Mom would say, “Achks guh khagha,” indicating her eye was twitching. That meant company was coming. You could bet money on her eye movement because as one gentleman courting my sibling would say, “The Apigian house is like Grand Central Station.” He never did become part of the family; perhaps, as I was told, he had a touch of being anti-social and the flood of guests at our house frightened him.

Mom’s superstitious sayings still come to mind. I had promised myself in the years after her passing that they were worthy of being recorded for posterity. I never did it, though, until now. And the ones I do remember are only a smattering of what she repeated to me.

Aganchs tzayn goodah” (My ear is ringing),” she’d say, meaning, “Someone is talking about me.”

Tzerkus guh kerveh” (The palm of my hand is itching),” depending on which hand, meant she would either be getting money or spending money.

If someone dropped a fork to the floor she’d say, “Aghchik/geneeg bidi kah dounernees (A female guest will be coming to our house).” If a knife fell, the reason was, “Dgha/mart houyr bidi kah hos.”

If a person was extremely critical, she would repeat, “Havgeet-een mechuh maz guh pndreh (They’re looking for a hair inside the egg).”

If mom was shagheling (mixing) hamburger or dough in a bowl and pieces would jump out onto the table, she’d say every time: “Oudogh bidi kah (We’ll be having guests who are dining here).”

My personal favorite was this: “Vor-meh ounee kugh guh shercheh (Her backside was big enough to knock over a village).”

Achkes guh bagheh (My eye is getting cold),” for when you stare into space without blinking. It meant you’re going to have guests coming to your home from a far distance.

The art of love had its own saying: “Vor-uh perengeruh (His/her backside is on fire).”

A saying from the old country: An anxious young bride speaking to her future mother-in-law said, “I could have a baby in 7 months.” The mother-in-law admonished her thusly: “Have your first baby in 9 months and then have the second one in 7 months.” That was a word to the wise that prevails even today.

Achkuh dzag eh” for a person who is greedy, or one who cannot get or have enough.

Another favorite of mine was a quote from a Kharpertzi neighbor describing a very portly, first generation-born male: “Dzkhadz cigaruh kntz boy-en yergayn-eh (The cigar he smokes is longer than his height).”

Lastly, for now at least, Dad would jokingly say to someone who showered every day: “Esh es kerter? (Have you skinned a mule?)”

Most of us who are the fortunate offspring of the Genocide Survivor Generation were blessed to be raised in a household where we conversed in Armenian; that was usually by parental requirement. In many villages, the Ottoman government had closed the Armenian schools, and learning Armenian was forbidden. Consequently, parents or teachers taught the language in secret to children at great risk to their life.

Both my parents were fluent in reading and writing the Armenian language. My father, as an adamant Tashnag and party member, insisted on Armenian being spoken in our house. We also were expected to attend Saturday Armenian school classes where we became familiar with Sourp Mesrob’s alphabet. To this day I try to find someone with whom I can speak Armenian, since my parents are now deceased. I love practicing my Armenian language skills, but it is almost impossible to find someone with whom I can converse.

Some kids grimaced at the thought of attending Armenian school after spending five days in public school. I’ll bet now you deem yourself one of the lucky ones and have fond memories of those Armenian school classes. You now not only possess English language skills but you are fluent in the Armenian language, a true gift no one can take away from you.

The Armenian language connects us to our heritage of thousands of years. Preserving the language is another way we can declare victory over the Turkish mandate to rid the Ottoman Empire and the world of Armenians. They failed miserably.

You probably smile to yourself remembering the dances and poems you were required to memorize for the annual hantess (program), when doting parents filled the agoump or auditorium to watch their little darlings demonstrate what they had learned in Armenian school. Many of us regret not speaking Armenian to our American-born children.

Somehow we never had the time to do so, or so we tried to convince ourselves. Our children got cheated if we did not speak to them in Armenian. Our children, now adults, complain: “Why didn’t you take the time to teach me how to speak Armenian?” How do you respond to that? Learning the language of your ancestors is a promise you make to them to preserve your heritage. Even famed anthropologist Margaret Meade had great respect for the beautiful Armenian language, saying it should be taught universally.

For many of us, going through our daily routine we will suddenly remember a saying attributed to our now-deceased parents.

Being Armenian certainly is an uphill battle that is well worth fighting for. I have asked myself what other nationality I would have preferred to be, but the answer always comes up the same: “Yes Hye em!”

As a young adult dedicated to the Armenian Cause, as a member of the Armenian Youth Federation with a fond interest for fine clothes and cars, I now realize that along the way I matured into a woman full of vim and vinegar fighting for my heritage, which has made me stronger than I could have ever imagined.

Here I have included only some sayings that I recall, mostly those from Takouhie, the beloved mother that I miss on so many levels.

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