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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Without Memories

I remember our mountainsides
The cool gurgling of the springs
The eternal fires of the shepherds
My mountain deer lovers' black eyes

Hazy mountains, breezy mountains
Bring my childhood back
Mountains lush with flowers ...

I remember my mothers' voice
The sheep grazing on the rocks
The sweet sound of the shepherd's flute
Sitting under the dark clouds

Hazy mountains, breezy mountains
Bring my childhood back
Mountains filled with flowers 

Our mountain flowers are in my heart
Their sweet smell is in my heart
Flower scented, mountain air drenched
Our song's springs are in my heart

Hazy mountains, breezy mountains
Bring my childhood back
Mountains luxuriant with flowers

Lyrics by Gooson Ashod
Translated from Armenian by
Armine Zohrabian

Who are we without our memories? I wasn't raised in the mountains of Armenia which I regret immensely, but the song speaks to my yearnings of my childhood in the dusty streets of Arak. I remember our quaint small church, the kindergarten, our school, the pageantry of our New Year celebrations, the tall Christmas tree, the Santa Clause and his sack full of goodies. Our school chorus singing enthusiastically year after year all the wonderful songs that filled our hearts with pride and deep sorrow. The songs we sang gave us visions of a motherland we had never seen. We sang about heroes we had never met, sacrifices they made we could never be fortunate enough to make. But in general we were happy children, we had good parents, good teachers, a peaceful predictable life. The years rolled by and we always celebrated New Year, Christmas, Easter and all the other big and small traditional Armenian holidays. Every year in elementary school when the school year was over on our way home we would throw away our old notebooks and take off our uniform before getting home and then our summer adventures would begin. For me and my sisters it was playing hide and seek in the evenings with our cousins, it was bicycle rides at nights and playing endless games of tag and dodge ball. We payed house and school and we had lots of dolls. But what I most liked about summers, was that I could read to my hearts' content. After tiring of games I would stand in front our large library and would chose a fat volume. Sometimes I would ask my fathers' opinion and he would gladly recommend something. I mostly loved historical epics. It was awe inspiring to read about Armenian history, our great past civilizations and dynasties, all the great battles and minor wars. I learned who I was and where I came from through these books. They gave me self confidence and self worth. They were the building blocks of my cultural education. I read other books also, books by well known Russian, English and French writers. Every time my father would go to the capital, Tehran he would bring new books along with dolls and clothes. And then, there were our friends, school friends, friends from youth groups and cultural organizations. Friends that shared our school days, summers and winters and everything else in between. We partied together, danced and sang together and grew up together. Friends that even after thirty years of separation still remember each other and are happy to see each other and say hello. We would all be hollow soles without our memories of the past. We are who we are today because of who we were then. 

I miss everyone and everything in my childhood but, that's life.                   

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Unanswered Questions

I was probably 5 years old. I don't remember why but I was standing in our enormous garden that had a big green wooden gate and I was calling my mom who was in the house 200 feet away from me. I kept calling mom mom mom mom mom mom. I called so much that that the word mom lost its meaning. Suddenly I realized that I wasn't calling anymore, I was thinking who made up the word mom? Why are we supposed to call this individual mom? Who was the first person who used it it? I thought about it for a long time but had no answers. Another day my sister and I were talking I was maybe 6 or 7 and she was 10 years old. I asked her if she knew what God was. I remember clearly what she did. She put a dot on a piece of paper with her pencil and said, "Do you see this dot? no matter how small anything is in this world God can see it, you can't hide anything from God". I already had enough religious education from my church and school that I knew that God was supposed to be this almighty being, who was loving, forgiving and most importantly punishing the evil, person. My next question to her was "If this is true, how could God let the Turks kill one and a half million Armenians who had built one thousand and one churches in the city of Ani, who were the first nation on Earth to accept Christianity? Why was I praying every night and asking God to keep my mom and dad and sisters and brothers safe and healthy, obviously God didn't have the power to do that." I don't remember what my sister's answer was, it must not have been convincing enough because I stopped praying and stopped believing in Gad from that moment. I asked my sister recently if she remembered that conversation and she said no. I suppose the reason I remember it so clearly is because that was a turning point in my life.