Manjikian: An Early March Morning

It’s close to 4 a.m. I hear small cries as I emerge from a deep sleep. The sounds are not urgent or dramatic yet. Before they escalate, I know it is time for me to cradle your warm little body in my arms pressed against my chest. I force my eyes open and stumble to reach your crib and bring you to me. The room is almost pitch dark, but you manage to find your way straight to the source and latch on to your island, a respite from floating dreams. I may be your island, but you have become my anchor.

'For now, welcome the dawn, sweet one.'
‘For now, welcome the dawn, sweet one.’

At that moment, the world is suddenly more than just still. It is peaceful. And scenes of war-torn cities, violated lands and people, displaced and shattered families with broken dreams that I see in my incessant newsfeed no longer surface on my mind’s busy canvas. I am focused on only one feed right now. In this time and space, there are no boundaries—only arbitrary lines on an archaic atlas. As I hold you tight, your small fingers trace maps on my chest. I treasure these maps of yours.

Shall I explain to you how it is not the differences in humans that are dangerous, but rather our limited understanding of these perceived differences? That is what damages our world, not the intersecting complexities that enrich and explain it.

How I wish you are able to embrace that complexity and see it through. And when you meet a worried man from a far away land, do greet him with your warm smile. He has been pushed out of his home after his entire neighborhood was bombed. After all, your grandparents are sons and daughters of refugees.

But why burden you so early in the morning and so early in your life?

For now, welcome the dawn, sweet one.

After a brief peaceful slumber and airy dreams, you are awake again. The intensity and focus in your eyes give me the feeling that I have known you before, even though you are new around here. There are small parts of you that remind me of our grandfathers. I wonder if, when I was an infant, my parents saw traits of their ancestors in me. Could this realization be part of the cycle of life, from womb to ashes, with names filling the branches of family trees?

As your newly minted passport arrived in the mail the other day, I told you how you are the first branch to be born in North America, a first-generation Canadian Armenian. A document you will use to cross those arbitrary lines your delicate hand did not draw.

I will have to explain to you why you were born here and how your parents and grandparents weren’t. I will also have to explain the missing branches of our tree. How they were violently cut off, leaves killed and flowers fallen like scattered beads. Yet the tree continues to bloom.

I write this in English, but speak and sing to you in Armenian, the mother tongue. The fact that you will learn three languages in your early life also warrants an explanation.

I will explain why you are named after a large fresh water lake in Armenia, the motherland, and what that means to your father and me.

But not this early in the morning. Before the sun rises I sing the words that led generation after generation into deep slumber, while the world outside continues to violently rumble…

Koon yeghir palas, acherut khoup ara,
Nashkoun acheroot, koon togh kah verah.
Oror im palas, oror ou nani
Im anousheegis, koon-uh guh dani 

Toon al koon yeghir, indzi al koon dour
Sourp Asdvatzamayr, anoushis koon dour.
Oror im palas, oror ou nani
Im anousheegis, koon-uh guh dani

Go to sleep, my dear, close your eyes,
Let sleep rest upon your pretty eyes.
Lullaby my dear
Sleep takes my little one.

Go to sleep now, and grant me sleep as well
Holy Mother, grant my sweet one sleep.
Lullaby my dear
Sleep takes my little one.


Lalai Manjikian

Lalai Manjikian

Dr. Lalai Manjikian is a humanities professor at Vanier College in Montreal. Her teaching and research interests are in the areas of immigration and refugee studies, media representations of migration, migrant narratives and diaspora studies. She is the author of Collective Memory and Home in the Diaspora: The Armenian Community in Montreal (2008). Lalai’s articles have been published in a number of newspapers and journals including The Armenian Weekly, Horizon Weekly, 100 Lives (The Aurora Prize), the Montreal Gazette, and Refuge. A former Birthright Armenia participant (2005), over the years, Lalai has been active in volunteering both within the Armenian community in Montreal and the local community at large, namely engaged in immigrant and refugee integration. She previously served as a qualitative researcher on the Armenian Diaspora Survey in Montreal. Lalai also serves as a board member for the Foundation for Genocide Education. She holds a PhD in Communication Studies from McGill University (2013).


  1. what beautiful writing Lalai. I am proud to know someone like you. This made me sad and happy at the same time, with what is going on in this world. God bless you all especially your little one.

  2. Շատ յուզիչ ու գեղեցիկ գրուած է։ Կը սպասեմ, որ նոյն դիւրութեամբ հայերէն ալ գրես, որպէսզի Սեւան երբ մեծնայ նաեւ հայերէն գրածներդ կարդայ։ Վստահ եմ որ կրնաս։ Ապրիս։ ՎԱԱ

  3. ՕՐՕՐ
    Երաժշտ Բ. Կանաչեան

    Քուն եղիր բալաս, աչերդ խուփ արա,
    Նախշուն աչերուդ քուն թող գայ վրայ :
    Օրօր իմ բալաս, օրօր ու նանի,
    Իմ անուշիկիս քունը կը տանի:

    Դուն ալ քուն եղիր, ինծի ալ քուն տուր,
    Սուրբ Աստուածամայր, անուշիս քուն տուր:
    Օրօր իմ բալաս, օրօր ու նանի,
    Իմ անուշիկիս քունը կը տանի

    [Barsegh Kanachyan – oror (Armenian lullaby)]

  4. Dearest Lalai,
    You are a talented writer and a beautiful mom. I know you will raise your child with the love of our culture and country. I am so proud of you!

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