Well, that’s it, I think to myself. It’s Sunday night of Labor Day weekend, and I’m stuffed into a too crowded hotel room. Surrounding me is the rest of the New Jersey Arsen—the ones with more years left to give. They want me to say something. It’s my last year in the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), and they want me to say something.
It’s not easy to sum up 18 years of service and commitment, fraternal attitudes and fellow members. It’s not easy to accept the fact that with the minutes of this final Olympics slipping away, I’ve aged out of the AYF. I don’t know what to say exactly, but what I do know is that I’m not alone in this. To my right stands Ani Sarajian, and hasn’t she always been there? Haven’t we been together through it all?
Together in our bassinets, our parents place us side by side. At less than a month apart, perhaps we were born to be friends.
Together we clasp our hands into little steeples during Sunday school—the Hayr Mer newly learned spouting from our lips.
Together in the basement of a home, we join pinkies and shuffle through complicated steps. We nervously prepare for our first ever Armenian dance recital.
Together we lose game after game in our church basketball league. But what do we care? We’re just glad to play at all.
Together we raise our right hands and recite the AYF oath in unison—words that would bind us tightly to our community and even tighter to each other.
Together we stumble through the words of Sardarabad during Song Night at Camp Haiastan. Neither of us are especially fluent in Armenian, but both of us are especially proud to be Armenian.
Together we sit in the back of a bus headed for the middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania. Our heads resting together as we make our way to seminar.
Together we swap stories and clothes, secrets and gossip.
Together we compete in our first Senior Olympics. We leave Providence with medals tucked away in our bags and a new appreciation for the comradery of AYF tucked away in our hearts.
Together we stand behind the table at the AYF Easter bake sale selling cupcakes for a dollar and hoping not to be asked to sell raffle tickets as well.
Together we mix onions and parsley with gloved hands in the kitchen of Sts. Vartanantz. The bazaar is coming up, and the Ladies Guild needs help preparing.
Together we spend months and months planning Seminar for the Juniors. At the end of the weekend, we’re dropped off at a rest stop on 95. Our fathers are already there waiting for us.
Together we find our way down to the hotel lobby to catch the earliest shuttle to the track. Both our events start first thing in the morning.
Together we plan to meet our grandmothers at the Glenpointe Marriott. It’s “the ladies’ breakfast,” and we’re invited to join.
Together we earn a championship in our church basketball league. Undefeated this year. Remember when we were little and would lose all the time?
Together we cover tables in the gym with colorful plastic cloths and brown the taco meat for Cinco de Hyo. We don’t make a dollar on the event, but at least we tried.
Together we listen as women our mothers’ age discuss scholarship funds and Saturday schools, Christmas luncheons and contributions. We’re the newest members of the Bergen County ARS, so perhaps for now it’s best we just observe.
Together we stand in front of a room of young AYFers. It’s our last year, and they want us to say something. I didn’t know what to say, but now I do:
I’m just glad I got to start with Ani and now I’m finishing with Ani.
I’m not entirely sure what our role in this community will be next, but I do know whatever it is, we’ll do it together. We always do.