Saturday, July 2, 2016

MASS MoCA on a Beautiful Summer's Day

Karoun Charkoudian, experienced Yoga practitioner and instructor, holds up the supports of the Sprague Family Bridge at Mass Moca (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in North Adams, Massachusetts.                                                                               Photo by Marash Girl

The visit to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art left Karoun and Marash Girl in awe; whether or not the trip was worth getting lost on a narrow curvy mountain road at sunset in North Western Massachusetts is the question.
Photo taken by Marash Girl from a "factory" window at Mass Moca.  As Karoun commented, "Unlike the factory workers of today -- i.e., the folks who work in office cubicles -- the factory workers of yesteryear had only to look out of the window (if they were given that opportunity) to find  beauty all around them.        Photo by Marash Girl

Friday, July 1, 2016

Pray with Marash Girl, Cont'd

Cousin Charlie has been released from Mass. General and has returned home with hospice.

We are all loving you and praying for you, my dear cousin!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

When Life Gives You Rocks . . .

When life gives you rocks . . .  all of the farmers of New England were given rocks and what did they do?  They built the beautiful rock walls that line the back roads of New England.

But what if life gives you stones?

Peter, Marash Girl's father, had the answer to that . . . his back yard was full of stones and he wanted a stone-free garden, so what did he do? He gave a party!  Yes, a stone gathering party, a nickel a stone, with hotdogs and soft drinks for all.

Or, of course, you could always make stone soup . . .

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Caring for the Homeless

Overheard in a Springfield Park:

I'm leaving this empty Coke can on the ground outside of the trash can so that the homeless won't have to grovel in the trash can to retrieve it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Native American Walks Into A Bar . . .

There she was in Phoenix, Arizona. It was 2002.  (Back then she hadn't started writing her blog yet, so there are no photos or blog entries; only memories.)   She was lucky enough to hire a fellow to guide her through the petroglyphs outside of Phoenix.  The petroglyphs were magnificent . . . the petroglyphs, that is, that had survived the tourists . . . the petroglyphs that hadn't been chiseled out of the rock by idiots who wanted to decorate the fireplaces in their summer homes . . . 

Marash Girl got to talking with the tour guide.  He was a local, and a Native American.  Marash Girl asked him about his experience as a Native American living in Phoenix.  He told her the following . . .
"Just one example, then . . . My wife (a non-Native) and I walked into a bar and sat down at one of the tables.  We ordered drinks . . . she ordered a glass of wine, and I ordered a beer.  The waiter served her wine.  We waited.  The waiter wandered past our table, with never a glance.  My wife asked him where my beer was . . . The waiter said, 'Oh, no problem. . . it's coming.'  We waited another five minutes and asked again.  The waiter said, 'Yes, coming right out.'  This scenario repeated itself for the next half hour.  The waiter never refused to serve me.  He simply never served me."

(For more on this subject, see Marash Girl's Post for  Thursday, May 12, 2016  "Navaho in Harvard Square")

Monday, June 27, 2016

Pray With Marash Girl!

We are all praying for Chuck Bilezikian, who is in Mass. General Hospital, in critical condition.  May God be with you, Charlie.

Sunday, June 26, 2016


Walking along Congress Street in Boston, Marash Girl came upon a cautionary sign warning her of a "hollow sidewalk", a phenomenon of which she had never heard.  By the time she had seen the sign, it was already too late to get off the sidewalk!  What was going on?  When she returned home, she turned to trusty Google, where she read the following:  "Below any ordinary looking Back Bay (Boston) sidewalk, there may be a basement vault that was once used for storage or coal delivery. While the city has the responsibility for maintaining the sidewalk, care for the structure below is in private hands and may not be up to bearing the weight of a vehicle."  As her friend Jack Hackett used to comment, "Yikes!"  Or, as this is Sunday, Marash Girl will remind all of us to "pray without ceasing", especially when walking the streets of Boston!
                                                                                     Photo by Marash Girl

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Bad Boys?

Lorig called Marash Girl, so excited that her children were bad boys.   

Bad boys? Marash Girl queried. . . 

Yes, bad boys! replied Lorig proudly.  

Marash Girl was confused. Why would Lorig be proud that her children were bad boys?

To get the answer, Marash Girl had to check Facebook, where Lorig wrote,

"It's Raffi's first night as Silver Spring Takoma Thunderbolts Batboy. So far, so good. All bats have come off the field. Aline is also a batgirl so it seems I'll be spending my summer nights here. If you like baseball, come join me."
                                                                                                                                                              Photo by Lorig

Friday, June 24, 2016

Take me out to the ball game . . . .

                                                     Boston's  Fenway Park, June 22, 2016                                 Photo by Marash Girl
Thanks to Habitat For Humanity in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Stephanie Talanian who won the tickets to this Red Sox Game (The Sox almost won the game . . . ), Marash Girl got to be in Fenway Park this past Wednesday  . . . the first time in a very long time!

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Overheard at a local steakhouse:

"I had a salad. That counts as a vegetable, right?"

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vassal Lane, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Grandma Yester (Bosnian) Vartanian and Grandpa Garabed Vartanian, immigrants from Aintab in the Ottoman Empire, settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  They bought a three-decker house: 47 Vassal Lane, Cambridge, Massachusetts . . . the house where Marash Girl's mother Lucille Mae (known as Jennie -- that's Jennie with an "ie" not an "ey", Jennie would always say) . . . where Jennie, Lydia, and George grew up. Garabed ran a "Ma and Pa" store in Harvard Square (it was only Pa, though) and Yester rented out the first two floors of their 3-decker home in Cambridge.  They arrived as immigrants, and made it in the good old USA!  Marash Girl is so proud of them!  Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa.

N.B.  Somewhere in a drawer, lost long ago, is a photo of Grandpa Garabed Vartanian who played the piano in a band in Aintab!  He must be the source of all the musical talent in our family!  Grandma Jennie, though she never had a lesson in her life, could play any popular tune on the piano . . . by ear!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Leaving Aintab Before the Genocide

Not sure when, but Grandma Yester nee Bosnian had loss in her life early on.  A first marriage to a Bezjian ended in disaster as her young husband was murdered during one of the early massacres (mid-19th Century) in the City of Adana, Ottoman Empire.  Some time after that, she married Garabed Vartanian, of Aintab, and left Turkey to come to the United States (Cambridge, Massachusetts), early in the 20th Century.  One of Marash Girl's earliest memories is Grandma Yester describing her ascent onto the boat in Turkey with her husband Garabed as the Turkish folks on shore beckoned her to return . . . she said, "I knew what they were capable of . . . " (of course, she said this to Marash Girl in Armeno-Turkish) . . . "No way was I going to stay and risk our murders by these people."  Yes, Marash Girl must have been 5 years old at the time, but she still remembers her grandmother Yester's words.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Weaving to Survive . . .

"Armenian ladies weaving a rug at a workshop on Aintab's Sahveli Street, inside the Armenian (Hayk) sector. I would presume the photo was taken over 100 years ago. Some of these rugs took over six months to make." Thanks to Cesar Jacques Khekijian for posting the photo.
Click this link to see Marash Girl's post on her family's weaving to survive during the war in Marash. Her family from Aintab had fled before the genocide . . . more on that in her next post . . .

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Digging Up Maple Avenue 24-7

Yes, 24-7, the construction vehicles roar as they dig up this little dead end street, short and sweet, known as Maple Avenue.  (Yes, it's lined with Maple Trees.)  It used to be a quiet little enclave, with only the slightest whisper of automobile  traffic from the not so far off Massachusetts Turnpike.  But not any longer.  The construction is continuing until the gas lines get replaced, and continuing means the continuing roar of machinery, machinery that never stops, roar that never stops and will not stop for days until the project is complete.  Impossible to garden, impossible to think, impossible to sleep, impossible . . . .

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hit and Run On The YMCA Track

Hit and run on the YMCA track . . . not so uncommon . . . last week a runner running on the inside track (the slow track) clipped a walker who had been walking on the second ring . . . no apology . . . not even a thank you, ma'am!.  This week a little girl riding her bike around the YMCA track (illegally, by the way -- no bikes allowed on the track) hit an elderly woman smack on the back side -- (an elderly woman who had been walking around the track) . . . her father (the little girl's, not the elderly woman's) ran over and yelled at the elderly woman who had been the "cause" of the collision -- after all, his little girl was just learning to ride her bike!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Is Marash Girl planning a trip to Marash?

She says, when asked, "VOCH!  It would break my heart to see what was wrested from us!"

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Letter From The Past

Two friends -- friends from before the genocide in Marash --friends who were friends to the end . . . In the Marash book once belonging to Arppie Charkoudian, Marash Girl found the following letter, a letter from long ago, a letter that describes what real friendship is all about.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Stuck at a red light?

And speaking of a definition of a split second reminds Marash Girl of a story that Ronnie (Skip) Isaacs told her many years ago, a true story about his father who had stopped at a red light.

It seems that even way back then, the minute the light changed from red to green, the car behind Skip's father started tooting its horn.  Skip's father immediately turned off the car engine, got out of the car scratching his head, opened the hood of the car and started checking everything out.  Finally, after the light had turned from green to red and back to green again, he got back into his car, started the car up, and drove off, chuckling to himself!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Overheard: Definition of a Split Second

Definition of a Split Second: the time it takes between the moment the light turns from red to green and the moment that the jerk behind you starts beeping his horn.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Newest Lion of Marash!

Looking at an inventory of photos taken by Stanley Kerr, author of The Lions of Marash, Marash Girl arrived at the last photo, a photo which she could see at its outset was not like the rest -- it was in color and 5 times as large as the others.  How it got there, Lord only knows . . . because it was a  recent photo taken of the most recent Marashtsi in the family -- a photo of Dylan Marie!  And here it is!  Happy Birthday, Dylan Marie!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Are Bundt Cakes allowed on Airplanes?

Marash Girl had baked a bundt cake for her grandson's 9th birthday.  As she took it out of the cake pan to wrap it in tin foil and place it in her carry on, Marash Boy, horrified, exclaimed, "You can't take that cake on the plane!  It looks like a bomb!"  Although Marash Girl had never seen a bomb (only a hand grenade which her cousin Eddie proudly exhibited when he immigrated to the United States soon after fighting in the French Army), she agreed that she would not put the powers that be to the test . . . So her poor grandson had to eat store bought birthday cake, but then at least Marash Girl and her bundt cake were not detained at the airport!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bumia (Okra Armenian Style!)

Marash Girl didn't know what to write for her blog today, but she did know what to prepare for supper yesterday evening, so that's what you're getting this morning -- Bumia -- not to eat, but the knowledge of how, for generations, Armenians from Marash and Aintab have prepared okra!  An why today?  Because yesterday Marash Girl happened on some lovely small fresh okra at the market. So here goes.

Heat several tablespoons of olive oil (or your choice of oil) in the bottom of a heavy iron pot.  Chop up one large onion.  When olive oil is sizzling, add onions  and sauté 'til lightly browned.

Rinse (approximately one pound of) okra in cool water. (Better fresh than frozen, better small than large -- the larger the okra, the tougher!) Trim off the stems of the okra. Add to the lightly browned onions and stir.  Add fresh tomatoes (if available) or canned whole tomatoes if you can't find fresh.  Stir.  Simmer for about 1/2 hour.  Add lemon juice (to taste), salt and black pepper and/or Marash red pepper if you have any.

Always better the next day, so prepare the "bumia" (pronounced bum ya) the day before you're planning to serve it.  Although last minute will do as well, because it cooks up very quickly. 

Serve hot over rice (we prefer brown) or boulghour pilaf.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Books in a Latino apartment in Spanish Harlem in the 1960's?

Books in a Latino apartment in Spanish Harlem?  Not if you were Puerto Rican, the only member of the family with education in NYC in the 1960's!  In those days, even though you had made it to a fancy private school in Massachusetts, and later to Yale University, you would never insult your family by taking books into the home.  It would be like telling them, "I'm better than you . . .", (in Spanish, of course!)  And Marash Girl learned this first hand from her dear departed friend, Ramon Santiago, may he rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

When it rains, it pours . . .

When it rains, it pours . . .
And Marash Girl is not referring to the old Morton's Salt advertisement!

Right after the downpour last night, early this morning, the very morning that Marash Girl had promised to ferry her grandchildren to school, the very morning when Marash Boy was away on business, the toilet (luckily empty of human refuse) let loose its water, the cellar flooded, and the     firemen were called to put out the . . . flood!  Luckily Marash Girl's German tenant knew about those things, turned off the water, and . . . well, as Grandpa Peter used to say, "After all, it's only water!"

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Ridge Road, Wilbraham, Massachusetts, not so long ago, had the most beautiful stand of white birches in the town, white birches on privately owned property, but the town came out with an ordinance (a good twenty or more years ago) stating that owners of property needed town permission to cut trees on their own land  . . . the ordinance to take effect in one month.  The owner of the most beautiful stand of white birches in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, cut off his nose to spite his face . . . whoops, Marash Girl meant to write, cut down his trees to spite the town.  Now there is scrub where there was once a beautiful stand of white birches.  Marash Girl grieves for the lost beauty every time she walks by the property.

Monday, June 6, 2016


       PHOTO OF AINTAB, CIRCA 1900              Thanks to Cesar Jacques Khekijian

Sunday, June 5, 2016


                                                                                             Photo Credit: Odd Andersen/Agence France Press -- Getty Images
New York Times, Friday, June 3, 2016:

Members of German Parliament Holding Signs in German that translate: "Acknowledgement Now says THANKS!"

Note appreciation of the crowd; note the Armenian priests in the foreground.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Day the Cows Came Home

Now that summer's almost here, our minds and hearts revert to Wilbraham and the good old days.  One image in particular stands out in Marash Boy's mind, and that is the image of his tiny grandmother (born in Marash, his grandmother Sanjian who gave birth to 12 children, 4 of whom lived, survived the genocide, who immigrated to Springfield, Massachusetts, summered in Wilbraham, Massachusetts) . . . his tiny maternal grandmother grabbing the ear of an errant cow, the lead cow leading its errant sisters right onto our mountain top, the land fronting our cottage, from the farmer's fields below, this tiny grandmother  driving the herd with the lead cow in tow,  to the breach in the barbed wire where she pushed the lead cow over into the breach, with the herd following into the meadow, back to the owners, the Netupskis, farmers who lived on the other side of the mountain.  You may ask how she could have managed, tiny as she was . .   It seems that Marash Boy's grandmother, when she married, was gifted two things:  a teacher who taught her to read (so that she could read the Bible), and a milk cow.  Though the cow was mountainous in comparison to Marash Boy's slim, 4 foot tall grandmother, the bovine was no match for Marash Boy's Medzmairig's determination.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Newton's Own "Charles Aznavour" Sings French Songs of Love

On Saturday, May 28, at 6 PM, Newton residents were treated to "An Evening of Romance".a concert on the green in Newton Centre featuring Samba, French Songs and Tango.

Above: Armand Andreassian, accompanied by Marisa Avelo, sings French songs of love: L'histoire d'un amour, Que reste t'il, and La vie en Rose, while Leon Charkoudian (seated in background) attempts to understand the lyrics that were in the language that he studied many years ago.   
Piano Painted by Franklin Marval.                                                                Photo by Marash Girl

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Drawer from the Past; or, What Tales An Empty Drawer Can Tell

Why does this drawer look so familiar? Where is it from? Marash Girl struggled to put the drawer in context.  It took Marash Boy to remind her of the story that the drawer told.  To prevent the then newly acquired antique Empire Bureau from being stolen from the never locked cabin, she had insisted on removing one drawer from the bureau that sat in the middle bedroom in their summer Wilbraham abode . . . a trick she had learned from her antiquing friends.  Whenever they saw a bureau on the sidewalk that they could not tote away without the help of a truck, the antique dealers would lay claim on  that abandoned antique bureau by simply removing one drawer, and taking that drawer with them, for, after all, who wants a bureau with a missing drawer?  We know now that tornados make no distinction as to whether or not a bureau has a drawer, a bedroom has a bureau, or a cottage has a bedroom . . . no distinction whatsoever, as the arms of the Wilbraham tornado, on June 1, 2011, took bureau, bedroom, cottage, and all, five years ago yesterday.

[And speaking of empty drawers, let's think about the 8 empty drawers in the desk pictured below, the desk without a top!  Not a tornado, but a family on Eldridge Street, a Newton Corner family that sold their house and emptied their garage, abandoned this desk full of empty drawers and untold tales . . . what stories those drawers must hold!]

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Gentlemen of Claflin School

And speaking of David Seeley (Marash Girl, Sunday, May 20, 2016) . . .  in Marash Girl's elementary school days, the favorite sport of the boys was NOT dipping the girls' pigtails into the inkwell of the desk behind them, but rather pulling the chair AWAY from the girl who was about to sit down, and down she did sit, but not on the chair . . .!  It's amazing that the girls of  Claflin School survived the missing of all those chairs as, daily, they landed on the floor -- kerplunk!

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Little Doll on the Top Shelf at the Top of the Stairs

Auntie Zarouhi. No, that was her sister.  It was Ashod's older sister, Auntie Azadouhi.  She lived with her parents and brother and sister on the third floor in a darkened apartment in West Newton, the older daughter of Uncle Arakel (Sarkis was his middle name, as he was named after his father, Rev. Sarkis Bilezikian, the first Protestant minister in Marash); Uncle Arakel was a younger brother of Marash Girl's Grandpa Moses.

Auntie Azadouhi was so pretty, so sweet, so nice. Dark curly hair, light skin, a beautiful smile. Whenever we went to her house, she let us play with her pretty little doll, the doll she always kept on the top shelf in the closet at the top of the long flight of stairs leading to their apartment.  During one Sunday's visit, Marash Girl had such a hard time parting with that doll that she begged Auntie Azadouhi to let her take the doll home (her home, which was one mile away in Newtonville).

"But," replied Auntie Azadouhi, "if you take the doll home, it will never be here for you to play with when you come to visit!"

Sunday, May 29, 2016


"A miss is as good as a mile!"  Ever heard that expression?  Marash Girl first heard it in fourth grade when David Seeley, the baseball star of Claflin School, called a strike on one of his classmates, who cried out, "But I just missed that one!"  David Seeley called out, "A miss is as good as a mile."

Marash Girl remembered David Seeley's proclamation several years ago, when, during the Brew Fest held yearly on the shores of the Connecticut River at the Holyoke Canoe Club, Marash Girl was chatting with a group of family and friends when suddenly she saw a look of horror spread across their faces.  What could it be?  Had she forgotten to get dressed that morning?  No.  Had she said something inappropriate? Not that she could recall . . .

"Turn around," they cried out.

Marash Girl did so, and there  behind her lay a limb, a huge limb, that moments before, had  fallen off of the oak tree under which she was standing,  a limb that had just missed Marash Girl.  If it weren't for that miss, Marash Girl would not be writing today; but, then, as David Seeley proclaimed many years ago, "A miss is as good as a mile!"

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Genetically Engineered Yogurt?

Did you know that General Mills makes YOPLAIT Yogurt?  And did you know that Yoplait Yogurt is "partially produced with genetic engineering"? 
Learn more at and let them know your thoughts! 
And while you're at it, ask them about another ingredient in Yoplait:                               Vitamin A Acetate . . . 
You may be alarmed at what you learn!
Read the back of your yogurt container . . . see for yourself what's in that yogurt!

Or look for  CHOBANI Greek Yogurt which proudly states on its packaging that it contains only natural, non-GMO ingredients.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Love Salmon? Read This Warning from the Center for Food Safety

First farm raised salmon painted pink (see Marash Girl: )

Now this misguided approach to food intended for human consumption reprinted below -- help keep our food sources safe from potentially harmful human intervention . . . a warning from the Center for Food Safety:

As you know, CFS has recently filed a lawsuit challenging the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the first ever genetically engineered (GE) animal intended for human consumption, a genetically engineered salmon. The GE salmon is engineered to grow faster than conventional salmon with genetic material from an ocean eel pout.  GE salmon that escape containment could harm critically endangered salmon populations by interbreeding or competing with them for food. The manufacturer, AquaBounty, has said it intends to grow the GE salmon in the U.S. and at locations around the world, but currently its commercialization facilities are at two sites, on Prince Edward Island in Canada and in Panama.As part of our important lawsuit, we are looking for CFS members directly affected by FDA’s approval of GE salmon.

Specifically, we are looking to hear from members who meet one or more of the following criteria: 

(1)    you are an outdoor or nature enthusiast in the Northeastern U.S. who is concerned about the potential harm to wild Atlantic salmon from GE salmon;
(2)    you fish and utilize the Atlantic ocean coastal areas or Gulf of Maine waters, either commercially or recreationally, and are concerned about the impacts of GE salmon on your livelihood or recreational use; 
(3)    you work in fishing-related industries, and are concerned about the impacts of GE salmon on your livelihood; or
(4)    you have significant economic or environmental interests in the survival and successful recovery of wild Atlantic salmon fisheries, and are concerned about the impacts of GE salmon on your interests.
If you meet any of the above mentioned criteria, your experiences and concerns may be critical to the success of CFS’s fight to stop GE salmon. Please email In your response, please tell us: (1) how you fit the above-mentioned criteria and your specific concerns regarding the GE salmon; (2) your city and state of residence. 

Thank you,
Center for Food Safety

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Non-chemical gardening?

Recently, Marash Girl looked out of her back window to see the gardener in the neighbor's yard spraying (one can imagine what) towards her house. Could he be spraying water on grass in the rain? No . . . couldn't be .  She tried calling her neighbor, but no answer.  So she sent an email: "I noticed that your gardener was spraying your lawn with what appeared to be weedkiller, and I was concerned for many reasons, one of which was that, because the gardener was walking towards our house as he sprayed, I feared that the poison may inadvertently be blown by the winds and rains in our direction. . . Help!"

My neighbor answered me as follows:  "The gardener was spraying a mix of fertilizer and what is called 'pre-emergent crab grass controller'.  One of the reasons we use this particular company is that they try to be as non-chemical/green as possible.  I will forward your letter to them to learn exactly what was being used and what hazards, if any, it poses.  I know that it dries in a few hours and since it was raining when it was being sprayed, probably went right down into the soil." 

Needless to say, Marash Girl has not heard back from the neighbor in question (a good friend, by the way) regarding the "fertilizer" in question!

If any of you have a lawn, and have experienced crab grass, you'll be aware that the only "pre-emergent crab grass controller" that works is, plain and simple, poison. And this, from a company that "tries to be as non-chemical" as possible . . .  

Marash Girl grew up hand-pulling crab grass from the lawn, but finally convinced her father that there was nothing wrong with crab grass; it grew; it didn't need fertilizer; it was green some of the time . . . but green at the expense of poisoning the earth is not a choice

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Feeling the Force

Have you ever tried to get a roomful of 10 year old boys to be still?  Lorig did!  They'll do anything for Star Wars.  So this is how it happened.  18 ten year old boys had to sit, stand or lay absolutely still for one minute.  Sounds easy, right?  Wrong.  You try it, and you're older than 10.  No twitching, no smiling, no blinking, no scratching an itch.  One person moves the slightest, and the effort has to begin anew for all 18 boys. Could they do it?  Yes, they did!  Because of Star Wars, because they were "feeling the force", they could be still for a full minute! (Sorry, but Marash Girl has no picture to prove it. . . you'll just have to take her word for it!)

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Star Wars Birthday Party in Takoma Park, Maryland: Happy Birthday, Raffi!

Star Wars Light Sabers

Light Sabers in the Making
Putting the finishing touches on the Trash Compactor Cake

                                      Star Wars Trash Compactor Cake created by Lorig

Warring Light Sabers
The "trashed" Trash Compactor!

Sunday, May 22, 2016


In search of string?  Have you checked out your string drawer lately?  Nothing there?  Search everywhere?  Shops as well?  No?  What happened to the plethora of string we used to have around our houses?  What happened to all that string  with which Yester, Marash Girl's grandmother, would tie her packages before mailing them to Massachusetts from her home in Los Angeles, California?

Years ago, Marash Girl read a collection of short essays entitled, 

Pieces of StringToo Short to Save: A Memoir About Life, Journalism and Foreign Service written by Bob Chancellor, the title drawn from the box of string that the author had found in his grandmother's house, a box on which was written,  "Pieces of String Too Short To Save".  The book came to mind when, recently, Marash Girl's daughter called her, desperate to find string to hang the piñata she had made for Raffi's 10th birthday party.  She had had no problem finding the materials with which to make the piñata, but when it came to hanging the piñata, there was no store within miles of her home that carried such an old-fashioned item as string.  Marash Girl assured her that there was much string in the string drawer in her Newton kitchen, or in the boot of her automobile, or in the box down the cellar, but when she went to find the string, there was none to be found . . . Lucky for Marash Girl, though, there was a Walgreen's around the corner, a Walgreen's that, after much hunting, came up with a small but pricey package of string with which to hang the piñata, string which traveled yesterday from Massachusetts all the way to Maryland, via plane, string which ultimately made 20 10 year old boys and Raffi very happy on Raffi's 10th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Raffi!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Why are you making your cakes from scratch?

Recently, tasting Nisha's banana cake, I was reminded of the delicious, unmatched banana cakes that Grandma Jennie used to make from scratch.  She had the magic touch, whether she was following a recipe or not.  And yet, her mother, Great Grandma Yester Bosnian Vartanian, born in Aintab,   a superb cook and pastry maker, asked Grandma Jennie (and Marash Girl witnessed this), "Why are you wasting your time making cakes from scratch? You should be using a cake mix!"

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Ultimate in Hands-Off Food Preparation: An Egg Scrambler!

Back to the kitchen . . . For those of you pacifists who don't wish to beat anything, much less an egg, there's a solution:  the latest in "work saving devices" . . . The Egg Scrambler!
Have you seen it on supermarket shelves yet? One note of caution -- once the egg is scrambled inside of the eggshell, you still have to know how to crack the egg without any eggshell bits falling into the already scrambled egg . . . eggshell bits that will be far more difficult to detect because you have already scrambled the egg inside of the shell.  (For hints on how to remove eggshell bits from the already dropped egg, see Marash Girl, June 5, 2012, "It Takes One to Know One, or How to Catch a Bit of Eggshell with Another Egg Shell".)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

MEN CAN COOK: Greater Springfield's fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity

MEN CAN COOK: Greater Springfield's fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity chaired by Karoun Charkoudian

Folks from the "West Coast" of Massachusetts as well as from the West Coast of the United States enjoyed "tipping" the waiter at the hilarious Habitat for Humanity Fundraiser on the evening of May 2 in the Elks Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Above: Supporting Greater Springfield's Habitat for Humanity

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Coat That Was Too Beautiful To Burn

                                   Above:  The German Hospital in Marash - Photo from Facebook

Seeing the photo above on Facebook brings to mind 
the following true tale 
of an atrocity which occurred in 1915.

There was a day when Marta Bilezikjian, the mother-in-law of Yepros, the mother of Moses Bilezikjian, went to the marketplace in Marash, never to return.  For months the family knew nothing . . . until one day, young Yepros,  Peter's mother, was caring for patients in the German Hospital when she spied her mother-in-law's coat on the bed a wounded Turkish soldier.  "What a beautiful coat," she commented in perfect Turkish, her native tongue; "Where did you get it?"  Laughing, he answered,  (in Turkish, of course, not realizing Yepros was Armenian), "I took it off of an old giavour (infidel) woman who came to the ovens to bake bread. We threw her into the ovens, but before we threw her into the ovens, we took her coat -- it was too beautiful to burn."

Above: Workers at the German Hospital in Marash, circa 1915

Below, "View from the rear of the German Hospital ..." in Marash, circa 1915

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

She Taught Them Never To Beg

Between 1915 and 1920, during World War I, Grandma Yepros, an Armenian in war-torn Marash, Ottoman Empire, was left to fend for herself, her sister, and four children, her husband Moses having been stranded in the United States, unable to return to Marash to protect his family because of the war.  Yepros worked in the German Hospital, and her pay, as her son Peter used to tell it, was one loaf of bread a day. The family would share that loaf of bread, as Yepros would take one bite and say, "I'm not hungry."   It was "not by bread alone" that she and her family survived, but by faith and hard work and stubbornness, the stubbornness not to give up.  She forbid her children to go into the missionary "soup" line; she said she would rather have them learn to live with hunger than learn to beg.  (Marash Girl's father for the rest of his life claimed he never felt hunger, even when he hadn't eaten for a full day).

Monday, May 16, 2016

Marash Martha, Poison Ivy, and Ronnie Raphaelian

On a beautiful day last week, Marash Girl went walking in Nahanton Park -- the park that was once the site of Newton's Poor Farm -- and there along the wooded paths she saw the fresh tender shoots of  -- you guessed it -- poison ivy!  Yes, she recognized poison ivy, and it recognized her, so she made a point of staying well away (inches, that is, as the path was a narrow one) from the soon to be hearty ivy plants.  But that close a call with poison ivy (and she's still not sure she missed rubbing against it), brought to mind the famous interchange between Marash Martha, Ronnie Raphaelian, and his football.

Here's the story, and it's a true one!

The Armenian Memorial Church held it's annual picnic once a year (yes, once a year -- thats what annual means, right?) at Waverley Oaks in Belmont, Massachusetts, and although Marash Girl's and Marash Martha's family did not attend that church (they attended the church behind that church, the one on Arlington Street in Watertown), they always attended the Armenian Memorial Church picnic in Waverley Oaks.  The one picnic that remains in Marash Girl's memory to this day is the picnic to which Ronnie Raphaelian brought his football.  Mistake!  All the kids were playing catch with Ronnie and his football, but when Marash Martha got the football, instead of throwing the football back to Ronnie as she was expected to do, she threw the football directly (and deliberately) into a patch of poison ivy.  It was Ronnie's football, and if he wanted it, he would have to go into the poison ivy patch to get it.  And he did.  The conclusion to this story?  No, the conclusion is not that Ronnie went in after the football and thus contracted a horrific case of poison ivy.  That's not the conclusion to this tale, although Ronnie DID go into the poison ivy patch and DID contract a horrific case of poison ivy.  The conclusion, then? When Marash Martha heard that Ronnie was down with poison ivy, she immediately sent him a card -- not a get well card, but rather  a sympathy card!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Public Apology from Marash Girl to Jack Bedigian

Dear Jack Bedigian, 
It has been many years, in fact, 68 to be exact, that Marash Girl has waited to make this apology.  Do you remember when your sister got married?  (Your oldest sister, was it?)  Do you remember coming to school in third grade, so happy, so excited that your sister had gotten married, proud that all of the members of your family had henna on their little fingers? You were so joyful as your friends circled around you to learn the story behind your henna-ed little finger.  And Marash Girl, thinking she was so smart, had to show off by exclaiming, "No such thing! I'm Armenian and we never put henna on our fingers when folks get married."  What Marash Girl did not know was that the traditions of Kharpert (where Jack's family is from) and Marash (where, obviously, Marash Girl's family is from) were very different.  And for sure, the traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Armenians were very different from those of the Protestant Armenians.  But Marash Girl, thinking all Armenians were alike,  had to "pooh-pooh" Jack's moment in glory.  To this day she regrets the fact, and finally, yesterday evening, she picked up the telephone and called Jack, having not spoken to him in more than half a century. He was so forgiving -- in fact, he did not remember the incident.  He said, "Oh, that must have been when my oldest sister got married. . . Don't worry about it.  It's fine."  But Marash Girl still rues the day -- all these many years later -- that she dared to be so rude and so wrong!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

More on Tarkhana in Marash

On Sunday, January 18, 2015, Marash Girl wrote a blog on Marash Boy's mother Azniv's preparation of tarkhana in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Azniv learned the skill in Marash and may very well be one of the women in the photo below, a photo which Marash Girl found on Yusuf Koleli's post on Facebook, the photo credited  to Stanley Kerr's THE LIONS OF MARASH.

Below:  Osmanlı döneminde 1918-1919 yıllarında tarhana yapımını gösteren Stenley Kerr'in çekmiş olduğu fotoğrafı Reddit ağında( renklendirme talebinde bulunmuştum. Böyle bir iş çıkmış ortaya. (translation below).
Thanks to Yusuf Koleli for the above photo posted on Facebook. He writes the following: Osmanlı döneminde 1918-1919 yıllarında tarhana yapımını gösteren Stenley Kerr'in çekmiş olduğu fotoğrafı Reddit ağında ( renklendirme talebinde bulunmuştum. Böyle bir iş çıkmış ortaya.  (Rough Translation: 1918-1919 years of the Ottoman period - Tarhana making from Stanley Kerr's photo.)

As they had been forced to leave their homes and their possessions (including their clothes -- the clothes in this photo, probably given to them by the missionaries suggest that the photo is taken outside of an orphanage), the Armenians in the above photo were no longer able to make tarkhana on the flat rooftops of their houses, as was traditional in Marash.  "Thanks" to the Ottoman government, only through the above photo did many of the Armenians pictured above "survive" the years 1918-1919 in Marash.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Let's Go Climb A Tree!

    Let's Go Climb A Tree . . . . Farlow Park, Newton Corner, Massachusetts      Photo by Marash Girl

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Navaho in Harvard Square

Marash Girl has been waiting a very long time, carrying this story in her heart, and now it must appear in print.  The incident related below occurred in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, early in the 1960's.

Marash Girl and her good friend and classmate at Harvard University (his name omitted to protect the innocent) were walking through Harvard Square late one afternoon when a stranger approached them and asked Marash Girl's friend (who was  a member of the Navajo Nation), "What are you anyway? An Eskimo?"

And the taunts did not stop there.  When they entered the Harvard Square package store to buy a bottle of wine for their friend's 21st birthday, the vendor refused to sell to them, refused with the following statement:  "We don't sell firewater to Redskins!"

A cruel lesson for young Marash Girl and her friend to have to face early on in life, a lesson never to be forgotten.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Abba, Abba . . .

And the preacher said, "Just as Jesus called unto his Father, 'Abba', we too can call on Him:  'Abba, Abba'."

And from the back row of the church, a toddler, a little boy, just learning to speak, called out, "Abba, Abba".

". . . . And a little child shall lead them!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


                                              Politics along Mt. Auburn Street         Photo by Marash Girl

Monday, May 9, 2016

Take the Name of Jesus With You

Was I reading that sign correctly?  Or was it just that it was Sunday morning?  Did the Starbucks sign maker know what s/he was doing when s/he created the sign you see at the left?  Was it really a takeoff on one of Marash Girl's favorite hymns?  Whatever the intention of the sign maker, Marash Girl was taken aback and would like to counter by singing (sing along with her if you know) the old hymn


Take the name of Jesus with you,
Child of sorrow and of woe;
It will joy and comfort give you,
Take it then where’er you go.
Precious name! Oh, how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of heav’n;
Precious name! Oh, how sweet!
  Hope of earth and joy of heav’n.
Take the name of Jesus ever,
As a shield from every snare.
If temptations round you gather,
Breathe that holy name in prayer.
Oh, the precious name of Jesus,
How it thrills our souls with joy;
All the favor of the Father
In this name we may enjoy.
At the name of Jesus bowing,
Falling prostrate at His feet,
Claim His vict’ry over evil
And the enemy defeat.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


When Marash Girl thinks of happy mothers (a slight twist on the meaning of the day), she remembers  her mother who was always happy (except when we were mean little kids), always cheery, never a negative word to say about anybody, always ready to lend a helping hand.  That was Marash Girl's mother, Lucille Mae ("Jennie") Vartanian Bilezikian.  She loved her children,   she loved her husband, she loved her neighbors, she even lent a helping hand to strangers.  Perhaps that was why she was always happy.  And her husband, Peter Bilezikian,  adored his "Jennie with the Light Brown Hair"!

N.B.  Oh, and by the way, Jennie's parents were not from Marash!  They were from Aintab!!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Marina Kavlakian plays Sabre Dance at Hye Cafe

Watertown: Marina Kavlakian playing Khachaturian's Sabre Dance at Hye Cafe yesterday evening.   Photo by Marash Girl
Marina Kavlakian's sterling performance of Khachaturian's Sabre Dance yesterday evening at Hye Cafe in Watertown, Massachusetts, brought to mind the days Marash Girl's father would take Marash Girl to the Watertown Marashtsi gatherings to entertain the assembled.  The Marashtsi crowd became silent as Marash Girl, age 9, approached the piano on stage and announced the name of the piece she was about to play.  Sitting on the piano bench, listening to the silence, Marash Girl began.  All she had to play was the first note of her piano piece, and the Marashtsis would join in with their English/Armenian/Turkish chatter.  Marash Girl never had to worry about making a mistake, because the crowd would never have noticed, they were so intent upon catching up with their neighbors on the latest Watertown Marashtsi news!  
                    Attendees at Hye Cafe enjoy listening to the Sabre Dance . . Photo by Mariam Stepanyan

Photo by Ara Stepanyan

Friday, May 6, 2016

Prof. Lerna Ekmekçioglu Speaks on Armenian Feminists in Post-Genocide Turkey

Prof. Lerna Ekmekçioglu - Photo by Marash Girl
Prof. Lerna Ekmekçioglu
Photo by Marash Girl
Yesterday evening at ALMA, Prof. Lerna Ekmekçioglu  presented on the subject, "Armenian Feminists in Post-Genocide Turkey".  Her talk highlighted the life and work of Haiganoush Mark and the Armenian Feminist Writers of the early 20th Century.  The title of her recently published book speaks for itself.  To learn more, buy the book! 

Cartoon of Haiganoush Mark depicted as a suffragette with banners of the Armenian Women's Association (left) and Hay Gin (Armenian Woman) (right)  in Dzablvar Darekirk, 1921 - Photo Credit: Lerna Ekmekçioglu
Haiganoush Mark and her husband - Public Domain Photo

"Hai Gin" - Tombstone of Haiganoush Mark and her husband.
(Note that her husband's epitaph is in the last three lines at the bottom of the gravestone).

Photo credit: Lerna Ekmekçioglu