The Move

The keys are in the mailbox. 

I text our landlord one last time. You see, we’re moving. Our first apartment was too small, the walls too gray, the neighbors too loud. There was never any parking, and you couldn’t leave the garbage out on weekends. We hated all of our furniture, and we couldn’t stand not having a dishwasher. And yet, as I hit send, I’m crying. I can’t stop thinking about my Meme, my father’s mother. Let me explain to you why. 

My fiancé and I moved into this apartment on Bergenline Avenue right after we got engaged. I couldn’t wait to get out of my parents’ house. He couldn’t wait to have someone to come home to every night. We didn’t shop around or view lots of places. We saw this one and took it. 

The neighborhood is one bustling with culture – restaurants that serve fried plantains and yellow rice, supermarkets with aisles full of deeply colored chilies and shakers of tajin and signs written in Spanish without any translation underneath. Grandmas and grandpas, kids and babies, moms and dads, cousins and uncles and aunts all squeezed together into tiny apartments. They listen to music, and something fragrant is always simmering on the stove. They sit outside on their stoops watching passersby and shouting hello to their neighbors. Everyone knows everyone. It’s a mecca for immigrants – families who have traveled here with one thing in mind: a better life. Sounds familiar, right? 

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We felt right at home. Our very first place together, and I, a soon-to-be wife, vowed to make it a beautiful one. 

It wasn’t until about a year later that I remembered my own paternal grandparents had made their first home together years prior on this very same street. We on the corner of 67th, they on 51st. It may have looked a bit different then – full of immigrants from somewhere different from those residing there now. But ultimately, it was always just a street, a little neighborhood, a few shops and the bus stop. That is, before it was our street. 

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Now, as I close the door to our little apartment, I can’t stop thinking about my Meme. How she emigrated from France all by herself. Just a girl sent to America, sent to find a job and to then send for her family. A girl who met a talented choir boy who shared her French roots. A girl who fell in love and, even though she was Palutsi and he Dikranagertsi, went out with him for lemonades and kissed on every block from here to Hell’s Kitchen. A girl who wed in a dress she made herself, sets of parents glaringly absent from the ceremony. A girl who worked her way through storefronts and fashion houses, tailoring clothes and crafting more from reams of fabric. A girl who became a woman and then a wife and then a mother with a family to provide for and a new apartment on Bergenline Avenue that would someday become an old apartment on Bergenline Avenue to her granddaughter. 

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She sacrificed in ways only a woman can and bore burdens only a mother knows how to so that one day, she could move out of that little apartment and so could I.

My Meme has lived so many lives, but that was her first together with her husband. And it was mine, too. We cooked and cleaned, worked and rested, laughed and dreamed in our little apartments. We were the best women and the best wives and the best Armenians we could be, and even when we weren’t, we leaned on our husbands and thought of our families. As similar as I like to imagine our time on Bergenline Avenue being, mine was considerably easier because of my Meme. She sacrificed in ways only a woman can and bore burdens only a mother knows how to so that one day, she could move out of that little apartment and so could I. But maybe, just maybe, when she packed up her belongings and those of her family, when she tucked the key into the mailbox and left a note for the landlord, maybe she thought of me, too. Maybe she cried, her tears a mix of relief and nostalgia, wonder and hope for what’s to come. Maybe her tears were just like mine. Happy.

Arev Dinkjian

Arev Dinkjian

Arev Dinkjian grew up in an Armenian household in Fort Lee, NJ. She was always surrounded by art, sourced by her musical father and grandfather, Ara and Onnik, or her creative mother Margo. Arev graduated from Providence College with a degree in elementary and special education. She enjoys teaching language arts to her students and takes great pride in instilling an appreciation for literature in her classroom. She is a former member of the New Jersey AYF “Arsen" Chapter and a member of both the Bergen County ARS and the Sts. Vartanantz Ladies’ Guild. She also dedicated many summers to AYF Camp Haiastan, which she says remains her favorite topic to write about.
Arev Dinkjian

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