Sunday, January 23, 2011


Peeturrr, if you dye yorr herr, you veel look tventy yirrs youngurr . . . But Mari, I don't want to look 20 years younger! my father would answer laughingly, on every Sunday that he attended church.
Mari Kricorian was a short cheery woman, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, a member of our church -- the United Armenian Brethren Evangelical Church on Arlington Street in Watertown, Massachusetts. She was the wife of Mr. Kricorian (I don't remember his first name), the man who owned the Armenian meat market in Watertown, and she had 4 children, all of whom attended our church. (Leo was my age and I remember him the best -- dressed in the robes which were saved especially for the pageant, we played Mary and Joseph at Christmas on the church stage for many a year.) Mari always wore a hat (as did all of the women in our church) but her hat, although it was black, had beautiful flowers on it. . . I always thought, even as a child, that the flowers reflected her joyous spirit!
Mari's granddaughter, Nancy Kricorian, is a writer in New York City who wrote the novel ZABELLE, a novel based loosely on her grandmother's life in the old country and here in Watertown, Massachusetts. A few years ago, Nancy was on a book tour, and was to appear at the Brookline Booksmith. I invited my father to join me at the author event. There we were, sitting in the front row, looking at the beautiful, tall, brilliant granddaughter of Mari Kricorian. Hard to believe. Nancy began her presentation by explaining that she had wanted to write a novel about her grandmother, an ordinary woman. . . she paused . . . 'YOUR GRANDMOTHER WAS NO ORDINARY WOMAN,' shouted my father from his first row seat -- and he didn't have to shout very loudly. Nancy heard him. And remembered. In March of this year, when my father died, Nancy sent us the following message: Your father was no ordinary man!


  1. Hmm - a novel, eh -- how about it, MG?

  2. i do not recall anybody who attended that church as being ordinary. they were etched in deep colors and broad brush strokes. they were not to be trifled with, as some attempted. All failed, greatly to their surprise. even though the sermons were incomprehensible to me, the people were not. they lived in a breath of power and color that was there to behold after every service. Uncle Vartan's preaching was incomprehensible to me because it was delivered in a language foreign to me. But, the lives of the parishioners were not foreign to me. the spirit of their faith and the animus of their lives were there, right there, after every service, always expressed in gesture and small talk, in slow moving bodies and in slow moving minds, now quickened by what they had just received. we all arrived at the church less than the way we departed. our gait was quickened, our appetites were magnified, our capacity for humor made larger. such was the effect of preaching born of blood, of a man who who risked his life, nay, was thrown into prison three times by the turkish authorities for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of loving the Creator and loving His Creation.

  3. Frustrated that I couldn't remember the names of Mari's chidren, I emailed her granddaughter, Nancy Kricorian. Nancy answers: her children were, from eldest to youngest, Danny, Grace, Eddie & Leo
    My grandfather's name was Levon (Leo) Kricorian, and it was the Lincoln Market (on Mt. Auburn Street at the corner of Lincoln & Mt. Auburn).

  4. Although I only met him once, the stories of your daddy, as told by your brother, made a profound impact on me. One meeting was all it took for me to love him. He was indeed "No ordinary man."

  5. I finished the novel yesterday - it was very good - held me all the way through, and the characters are terrific. I especially appreciated the writing when she was dealing with the events and impact of the genocide on the characters - she managed to balance the gravity and horror with the way people must deal with surviving and having such memories - they are there, they are real, but do not take over the rest of the person's life. And such memories, long repressed or at least banished from consciousness, do often come back in old age. She does old age well, too, and the friendship of Z with A glows.

    Thank you for the introduction to the book. It will stay with me, as will Z's reputation for being a fine cook! And she apparently is not alone in your community. I am guessing that the Armenian Brethren congregation is/was one of the communities that you share with Z!