Saturday, April 30, 2011


Texas fossils transplanted to a corner window in Newton Corner, Massachusetts
Walking along the dirt roads in Gainesville, Texas, Marash Girl always found prehistoric fossils, sea animals that had lived there in the Texas hills millions of years ago.  But even in the hills of North Texas, progress has paved over our ability to relate to the past.  Now there are smooth tarred roads: one can drive without muddying the car or destroying an axle in potholes.  Granted the coyotes at the creek still cry out at sunset, but there are no more walks along dirt roads after a good rain, walks full of the anticipation of coming upon a fossil from ancient times. 

No worry, said a friend of Marash Martha (Marash Girl's sister).  Just drive over the border into Oklahoma, climb up into those hills  and you'll find plenty of fossils.  Plenty of rattlers, too.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Go Directly To Jail

Do Not Pass Go! Do Not Collect $200!

It was too much for Marash Girl's 4 year old grandson who was just learning to play Monopoly and who had just been sent directly to jail.

Bawling, he said, I don't want to play any more!

Why? we asked.

I don't want to go to jail!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Grandpa Movses  (Marash Girl's Grandfather), already an American citizen, left Marash via Egypt to travel to the United States in 1914; he planned to work and send money back so that his family could join him, but, because of the outbreak of World War One, and the beginning of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 1915, communications became impossible. Yepros worked in the hospital in Marash, earning a loaf of bread for a day's work -- often the only nourishment in the day that she and her family had during those dark years.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Loaf of Bread, a Coat, 1915, and the Rwandan Genocide

One fateful day in Marash in 1915, Marta Chinchinian Bilezikjian, Marash Girl's great grandmother, left her home carrying a loaf of bread dough to be baked in the commercial ovens of the marketplace. Marta never returned home.  No one  knew what had happened to her until the day that Marash Girl's Grandma Yepros Kurtgusian-Bilezikian, while working in the hospital in Marash, happened upon a patient, a Turkish man, who was wearing Great Grandma Marta's coat.  What a beautiful coat, Yepros commented (speaking perfect Turkish and fearing the worst).  Yes, the Turkish man answered proudly; I took the coat off of an old Giavour [Christian] woman before I threw her into the ovens.

Marash Girl's great grandmother Marta perished in the first days of the Armenian Genocide.  Almost 100 years later, yesterday evening, Marash Girl's friend Bianca,  talking about her new film project -- a film effort to comprehend the incomprehensible -- an effort at understanding the Armenian Genocide of 1915 through the lens of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 --  talked about the horrors that took place in Rwanda; one such detail haunted me:  during the 100 days of killing in Rwanda, the wives of the Hutu murderers were proudly wearing the coats of the Tutsis, the coats of the very people that their husbands had murdered.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Photo of Marash, Western Armenia, c. 1900


Monday, April 25, 2011

Marash Cooks

Have you ever gone to a restaurant where you recognized everything on the menu -- until it was placed in front of you?  Or when you recognized what was placed in front of you until you tasted it?  That was our experience last night when we walked into a Lebanese restaurant in the West Village.  Nothing tasted like the food Marash Girl grew up with!  Nothing tasted like the food Marash Girl cooks!  Time to head for home . . .

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On Easter, Greet Each Other in Armenian!

The Greeting:
Քրիստոս հարեաւ ի  մեռելոց          
Krisdos haryav ee merelotz!   
Christ has risen and conquered death.

The Response:
Օրհնեալ է  Հարություն Քրիստոսի
Orhnyal e haroutioun Krisdosi!   
Blessed is the resurrection of Christ!

And that's why we Armenians are happy on Easter, even when Easter falls on April 24th . . .

Saturday, April 23, 2011

ON GOOD FRIDAY: THINKING ABOUT THE GOOD & The Centrality of Goodness & Light

Mornings in Armenian, we greet each other with the goodness of light: Pari Looys Բարի լոյս (Good Light or Good morning) and respond Looys Pari - լոյս Բարի, (Light is Good), and Pari Gesor Բարի կէսօր (Good Mid-Day), and in the evenings, Kisher Pari գիշեր Բարի (Good Night) to which Marash Girl's family answers, Looys Pari լոյս Բարի (Good Light).

How central are Goodness and Light to our lives.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Yesterday was Maundy Thursday,  the day that the Christian Church, among them Armenian and Roman Catholic, teaches humility.  Marash Girl's granddaughter reminded her that this was the day we must wash each other's feet as Jesus did for his disciples.  And so granddaughter and grandson, who had spent the last 4 days wearing sandals walking in the sands of the Outer Banks, rehearsed that ancient ritual, illustrating to their grandparents a very special way of expressing
      the giving and receiving of love.


Thursday, April 21, 2011


Sand Castle, Duck, North Carolina
So we returned to the City of Sand this morning, just after high tide, and true to the faith of the twins, the City of Sand was still standing, with yet more construction and decoration, as you can see in the photo above!

So much for Marash Girl's doubting!

As Jesus said,
For verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.   Matthew 17:20 

Or, as the twins said, "Don't worry; the tide won't destroy our city of sand!"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

City in the Sand, Duck, North Carolina

Here we are on the Outer Banks, the beach at Duck, North Carolina, two ten year old boys (twins) and Marash Girl, enjoying the 85 degree weather, clear blue skies, bright sun, cool breeze.   Walking along the shore at low tide, we came upon a city of sand, built by unknown architects at the high tide mark; the boys and I loved it; it was if we had discovered a Mayan city in the midst of the jungle, except that we were in the midst of the sands, open ocean to our left, and on our right sand castles, soccer fields, a Mayan Temple, a prison and a mine next to the prison where, I suppose,  the prisoners worked, and all of it made of sand.  It was beautiful, but the boys made it more beautiful.  They  surrounded the temple with a moat which was connected to a big hole that Marash Girl fell into. [I think the hole was supposed to be an animal trap.]
They added stairs to each corner of the temple, a bridge connecting the world outside the city to the island on which the temple was built. They decorated the walls with seashells and dried reeds, made a gate on the bridge, and dug out holes in the mine.  They worked for hours, adding elaborate detail to the city of sand. All this because they thought that the ocean would not come up that high at high tide . . . But the highest tide mark was, in reality, far beyond the city of sand.  The question is, will the city of sand be there tomorrow?  And if not, is creating beauty, ephemeral as it may be, worth the time and effort?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A MISS IS AS GOOD AS A MILE! Duck, Outer Banks, North Carolina

We're at Port Trinitie on the Outer Banks in Duck, North Carolina. We are here by the grace of God.  Warnings on television, telephone calls from our children, warnings from our friends in Virginia were all to no avail.  The tornado won't hit Duck.  And if it does, we won't be there  The tornado did hit Duck, but unlike many other parts of North Carolina and Virginia, it hit several buildings, no people, and the buildings were at least three miles from our rental in Port Trinitie.  Marash Girl was reminded of the expression her classmates used to use during baseball practice in sixth grade, an expression which became metaphor throughout junior high for all kinds of occurrences. Marash Girl herewith takes the liberty of quoting her Claflin School sixth grade classmates Ray Vanderweil, Barry O'Keefe, Jimmy Loew, David Seeley, George Maxcey,  Anthony Soule, Kenneth Zalcman:  A miss is as good as a mile (in this case, 24 hours and three miles!) Thank the Lord!

Monday, April 18, 2011


Today, the Boston Marathon will wind its way yet again, from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, past Lowell Avenue in Newtonville where Marash Girl grew up and along Commonwealth Avenue to Boston.  [For an interesting history of this 115 year old event, click this link to Tom Derderian's 1996 publication, BOSTON MARATHON: 100 Years of Blood Sweat and Tears]

Every year, ever since she can remember, Marash Girl would walk from her family home on Lowell Avenue in Newtonville, Massachusetts, up to the corner of Commonwealth Avenue across from the Newton City Hall at around noon time on the third Monday in April in order to cheer the runners running in the Boston Marathon.  Her father. who would join the family (Marash Girl, her sister, her brother, her mother, her aunt, her cousins) would ask, just to be funny and/or philosophical, Why are they running?  What are they running away from? Where are they running to?  Why are they in such a hurry? 

Marash Girl remembers cheering the runners with all her heart, up until last year, because all her heart was no longer there; her father had passed away the month before.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


There's a man who lives in the nearby YMCA, a man who loves books,  and who comes by regularly to gather whatever books Marash Girl leaves for him on her porch. He salvages books that are unsalvagable, cleans and repairs them, resurrects them, as it were, then passes them on. This week Marash Girl had only one book to give him --  a book with a palm frond cross which had been slipped in between its pages years before.

One can only wonder if he will find and treasure that cross in his "new" book, placed there by an unknown believer, the cross made lovingly and prayerfully on a Palm Sunday so long ago.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Madzoonov Havgit - Yogurtlu Yumurta

Now that you know how to make madzoon, here's a simple recipe, one that was my mother's favorite -- she loved to say it (she called it Yogurtlu Yumurta because her family was from Aintab) and she loved to make it.  Simple. Scrambled eggs (hot) with several dollops of yogurt ((cold) spooned over the eggs!  What could be simpler . . . or more delicious!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Nasreddin Hodja: Madzoon մածուն (Yogurt) in a Disappearing Lake?

Miniature of Nasreddin Hodja, 17th Century, Topkapi Palace Museum Library Cat. No. 2142. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
I was telling a friend about my madzoon adventure when he related the following Nasreddin Hodja story (which I remember my father telling me a very long time ago):

Nasreddin Hodja was throwing madzoon into a lake.  When passersby asked what he was doing, he said, "Making madzoon," (or yogurt -- depending on who's telling the story).  The onlookers chided Nasreddin Hodja:  Are you crazy? Madzoon can never take hold in a lake!  But, said Nasreddin Hodja, what if it does?
Image credit:
Looking through the internet for confirmation of this story, I found an article dated August 21, 2007, reporting with concern that the lake into which (tradition says) Nasreddin Hoja threw madzoon, Lake Akşehir [a few kilometers northwest of Akşehir town in the central Anatolian city of Konya] once covered approximately 200 square miles, and now covers only 6 square miles with a depth of about 20 inches.

I wonder.  Would the lake turn to madzoon if Nasreddin Hodja tried today?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

MADZOON (մածուն) [YOGURT]: The Recipe

My father was intrigued by the fact that the first vendors of yogurt in this country, (remember Colombo Yogurt?), Armenian genocide survivors from Turkey, used the word yogurt (Turkish) rather than madzoon (Armenian). They thought that in order for the product to be saleable they should label it with the name by which it was generally known in Turkey, not realizing that they could as easily have made the product popular by its Armenian name Madzoon (մածուն), which is what we grew up calling this wonderfully healthy and delicious milk product from the Middle East.  In fact, when I just went to google for the English to Armenian translation, I typed in Madzoon (on the English side) and got no response from Google, but when I typed in yogurt on the English side, up came the word մածուն (Madzoon) in Armenian!  Go figure!  And here's how you, too, can make Armenian Madzoon (մածուն). (See yesterday's post for the full story.)  

This morning I tasted my madzoon, and oh, it is so sweet!  Sweet, you may ask . . . yes, sweet, the way my mother used to make it.  In fact, I remember telling my 4th grade friend that she had to try it because it tasted a lot like ice cream!  Well, that was a mistaken analogy for the poor child!  But this madzoon is sweet -- I'm so happy.  Want to try to make it yourself?  Here's how.

Slowly bring 1 quart of milk to a slow boil (simmer), stirring constantly; some of the old folks used to simmer the milk for a very long time so that the milk would boil down and make a thicker madzoon. [In fact, my mother-in-law would use unpasteurized milk if she could get it from the local farmers; she insisted it made a better madzoon.]  Set out a heavy crockery bowl or a pyrex bowl.  Place a quarter of a cup of magart (I use whole milk yogurt from Dannon, or Whole Foods, or Karoun) into a 2 cup container and stir until smooth.  Set aside.  When the 1 quart of milk has come to a slow boil, simmer for a few minutes longer, stirring constantly; then turn off the heat and let cool until slightly warmer than lukewarm. Now you are ready to add the starter to the milk. While stirring the magart (the 4 tbsps. of madzoon), slowly add about a cup of the cooled milk, stirring constantly. Set that mixture aside. Now pour the quart of heated, now cooled down to lukewarm milk from the pan on the stove into a pyrex bowl, and slowly add the milk and magart mixture to the pyrex bowl, stirring constantly, making sure that you do not stir into the mixture the skin of cream that will form on the top of the milk. (Some folks carefully move aside the skin and add and stir the magart mixture UNDER the skin that has formed over the top, or they simply remove the skin that settles on top of the boiled milk.)  

Cover the top of the bowl with a plate and wrap the bowl completely with multiple layers of thickly piled terry towels; set in a draft free warm spot.  OR place the covered bowl in an oven that has been preheated for about 3 minutes, turn the heat off, set the bowl carefully in the middle of the oven, cover with a plate, close the oven door and do not disturb or open the oven for 8 hours or more.  Best to leave the madzoon to set overnight.  Next day, remove the bowl of madzoon which will have set, and place in the refrigerator, ready to eat that night. Once you get the knack, you will never again have to use your 'yogurt' maker, because you will be a madzoon maker par excellance!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Marash Girl Makes Madzoon (մածուն) [Yogurt], California Style!

We used to make madzoon (մածուն) every week, and whenever we did, we always set aside 2 or 3 tablespoons (the magart or starter) for the next batch. If we forgot, we would go foraging for magart from our Armenian friends or neighbors.  In fact, in those days, women were known by how good their magart was! It's been years since I've known anybody from whom I could borrow some magart, and so I have not made madzoon, probably since my husband's mother Azniv passed away.

Visiting California was an eye-opener.  I learned many things, but one of the most important was that I could make Madzoon (you probably know it by the name yogurt) from store-bought low fat yogurt.  My mother, I remember, had tried to do that, and the results had been disappointingly watery.  But my friend (is it the California milk, or the California weather?) served me yogurt that she had made from store bought low-fat yogurt and low-fat milk.  Well, if she could do that, I figured, I could at least use store-bought whole milk yogurt for the magart and try to make my own home-made whole milk madzoon.  And so this morning, after driving Karoun to the airport, I decided to give it a try.  Granted, I am in New England where the weather is not yet warm, and I no longer have my grandfather's handmade thick wooden bowl covers with block handles to cover the madzoon while it is setting, nor do I have the heavy crockery in which my mother placed the magart & milk to set, but I do have an orange Pyrex bowl and an orange leCreuset pot to bring the milk to a simmer, and that will have to do.  It's in the oven now setting (as our weather is in the fifties and we live in a drafty Victorian house built in 1870!)  Let's see how it goes!

Okay, it's been 8 hours.  I know my mother used to wrap the bowl of setting madzoon in many layers of towels to keep it cozy and hold the warmth so that the magart would infiltrate all of the milk and make good firm madzoon.  Instead, I preheated the oven for about 3 minutes, being sure to turn it off before I placed the warm bowl of soon-to-be madzoon (covered with an orange leCreuset lid) into the oven.  I left the bowl there for 8 hours (desperately wanting to check it throughout the day, but I resisted, thank goodness!) And just now I looked

(and as you can see from this photo, it was late in the day), and the madzoon was set! Solid!  So I placed it in the refrigerator (if you break into it the same day, it will go watery) to firm up and set overnight, and tomorrow we shall try this madzoon that I haven't made for many a year!

Whoops -- I forgot to explain how to make it!  Shall I?  Okay -- read my post tomorrow, then, for the details.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

John Bilezikjian & Starbucks by the Sea

I love my cousins. I only wish I could see them more often. We are many and far between; the time and the money it would take to see all of them on a regular basis --  even the ones close by -- is prohibitive. But that makes the love even sweeter.  It's always easier when you share the same last name, or in our case, almost the same last name (a subject for another blogpost)!  And so it was that while visiting Los Angeles, I had the good fortune of staying with a cousin that I love dearly and see rarely.  She and I always laugh together, well into the night, and that's probably the secret of our friendship.  While we were visiting, I was looking for Armenian music on the internet, and came upon the song Jemilleh sung by John Bilezikjian.  Another cousin!  And one I would see soon. On the shores of the Pacific, no less -- a long way from Marash and the Ottoman Empire!

Kissing Cousins
Photo Credit for  photo above & below: Richard Yee

We met here -- at Starbuck's by the sea, and talked non-stop for almost 3 hours -- about our shared history, about our parents, our grandparents and our great-grandparents, those that survived the genocide and those that did not.  There wasn't enough time, but it was a start. We always knew we had a famous cousin but I  had never met him until I was well into my adulthood.  And it was fun.  And sweet. 

I know you've heard of John Bilezikjian.  He's often listed in the credits of Hollywood films, for having composed or performed the music for the film. I told him how much I loved the song Jemilleh that I had found on the internet that very week, and he told me that it was his song, that he had adapted the music and written the lyrics, and, of course, played and sung it.  Here's a link to John singing Jemilleh along with the words and the music in both Armenian (English letters) and English and here's a link to his website:  Dantz Records. (There are music clips from many of his recordings available on this web site as well.)  Even a friend in Germany knew your music way before we knew each other! We're all so proud of you, John!

N.B. For more on John Bilezikjian, go to

Monday, April 11, 2011


Golden Mountain Lions, that is, in the tamed and civilized hills of Rolling Hills Estates (Los Angeles suburbs) . . . I kid you not!  Marash Girl was having dinner with her Marashtzi Cousins in a most elegant condominium looking out of the window as the sun went down, the setting sun shining on the gold of a golden mountain lion taking a leisurely walk through the grassy hills, the lion framed by the picture window for all to see -- but if you live in California, apparently, you don't see what you see.  Oh, that's just a cat, said my cousin's wife.  Now for someone who has grown up with cats and who knows cats, I'd sure have to agree with her -- a cat alright!  A cat of about 5 feet in length with a tail almost as long. . . Just out for an early evening stroll!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

La La Land

Conversation during a morning walk in Los Angeles:

Marash Girl:  This looks like a movie set!

Marash Girl's Cousin:  This is a movie set -- they're here almost every week filming!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Peter Bilezikian, Irene's Birthday, and Asian Pears

Photo Credit: Karoun Charkoudian
So yesterday evening we were finally celebrating Irene's birthday.  Last minute. Belatedly. (Irene, Dennis, and Tatoul had cared for my father in the last years of his life and we were all there to celebrate Peter's life and to wish Irene a Happy Birthday!).  Karoun just happened to be in town attending a yoga conference - - and good thing too!
Having just returned from Lalaland, Marash Girl had very little in the way of ingredients; nonetheless, she did throw together a dinner of bulghur pilaf (do you want her secret recipe for this?) and tava, thanks to her trusty freezer.  But what to do for salad?  All we had in the way of fresh vegetables were a few tomatoes. It was Karoun who found the two round, firm Asian pears in the back of the fruit and vegetable drawer.  That was going to be our salad? Yes, she assured me, as she started cutting into small cubes the tomatoes and the unpeeled pears.  Tomatoes and pears?  For salad?  She added extra virgin olive oil and Baleine des salins du midi Sel de Mer Gros (Coarse Sea Salt Crystals).  Voila.  Her grandfather would have approved!  He always created from whatever he had around him.  Must be the genes . . . I know you won't believe this, but that was one of the most delicious salads we had ever tasted.  Who would have guessed?

Friday, April 8, 2011


I'm not Amish, and I don't really blame my yeghpayrner in California, but I'll never be able to enjoy another supermarket orange.  Here I am, back in New England, and about to enjoy my 'California navel' orange for my morning treat, but it has no taste! I have been spoiled rotten by the real thing in sunny California. No problem, you might say. Just go out into your back yard and pick the leaves of violets as the Amish children did years ago. (Do they still do that?)  [See yesterday's post.] So out I went into my sunny chilly back yard, and this is what I saw. 

Violet colored wildflowers, yes, but no violets and no possibility of gathering fresh vitamin C for breakfast. 

And so I write to those of you who are blessed with an orange tree in your back yards:  this morning I ate what I thought was an orange; it looked like an orange, it felt like an orange -- but oh, dear, it was NOT the orange that I learned to love from your tree!  Thank you, California,  for the sunny carefree days you gave me, but no thanks to you for preventing me from ever again enjoying any but a freshly picked orange!!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


No vitamin C tablets for Amish children.  In the 19th Century (where did I read that years ago?), the Amish would send their children outside to gather and eat the fresh leaves of violets for their daily dose of vitamin C. (I wonder what happened in the winter -- did they grow violets indoors?)  And now I know why the Armenians migrated from frigid New England to sunny California.  Walk out your back door and pick an orange or two for breakfast from your very own orange tree -- Vitamin C and joy!  
Guess where I am and guess what I'll be doing this morning!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Left to right: Peter (Bedros) Bilezikian, Prof. Bedros der Matossian, State Rep. (now Sheriff of Middlesex County) Peter (Bedros) Koutoujian and his father, Peter (Bedros) Koutoujian, Senior. Four generations of Marashtzis, though not all from the same family.  Peter Bilezikian is the only native born Marashtzi but they all consider themselves . . . yes, Marashtzis! Photo taken in 2008 at a gathering of the Union of Marash Armenians, Watertown, MA. (Photo Credit: Marash Girl)

One of Marash Girl's favorite photos is this photo she took at the Union of Marash Armenians in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 2008. Marash lives on into the 21st century!  If you know any one of these Bedroses, please add your comment below.  Marash Girl loves them all.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


If you love yogurt, did you know that you can drink it? With salt and even garlic, or carbonated in a bottle (that is, if you're in Syria or Lebanon, where I first tried carbonated Irran or Tahn as the Armenians know it).  One of Marash Girl's favorite drinks in the world, and she hasn't had it in a restaurant (even a Middle Eastern restaurant) or at home for years.  Not since her mother died in 1991.  Jennie made the most delicious tahn, and always served tahn at our backyard picnics, our picnics with relatives and friends every summer Sunday.  Here's how she made it. (And if you're interested, Marash Girl might even share the secret of making your own yogurt, but first the easier task.)

If you make your own madzoon (called yogurt by those of you who grew up non-Armenian in the United States)  and you have water & salt, you have all the ingredients necessary to make the most delicious drink (to Marash Girl's  way of thinking) in the world.  If you buy your own madzoon (labeled yogurt in every store except for Armenian stores), make sure that you purchase whole milk UNFLAVORED yogurt.  Are you ready for the simplest of recipes?

Here goes!  Fill 1/4 of your glass (or pitcher) with whole milk yogurt (unflavored, preferably tart -- i.e., older rather than fresher); stir 'til smooth. Fill the rest of the glass or pitcher with water.  Stir.  Add ice and a dash of salt.  Be prepared for a tart (hope you like tart!) delicious, refreshing summer, or, once you become addicted, year round drink.

Monday, April 4, 2011


I'm allergic to wine, all wine, even hard liquor.  So when my relatives said they were serving wine for dinner, I cautioned them. Don't put out a glass for me!  I'll just sneeze!  No matter. They were gracious hosts and did place a wine glass in front of  me, telling me that their father had made the wine himself in the 1970's, when he was in his 70's.  Well, this I had to try.  Out came a quart sized green glass 7-Up bottle (from the 1970's)   3/4 full of an amber liquid which they poured into my wine glass.  I sipped it, cautiously.  This was not wine! This was the finest brandy I had ever tasted.  And another sip . . . waiting for that sneeze which never came!  But the song did! (If you click this link, and the arrow at the top of that page, you'll hear the song. Raise your glass and sing along -- the lyrics appear in both Armenian and English script!)

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Below is the introduction to a 20 page talk given at an AYF  oral history training session in the late 1970’s.  When the Armenian Youth Federation was considering starting an oral history effort, the AYF invited as guest speaker Marash Girl, then Chairperson of the Armenian Oral History Project sponsored and supported by the Armenian Library and Museum of America, Watertown, MA.   The following text is the introduction to her presentation.
For years my father had been encouraging me to record, as did Saroyan, all the stories and tales that riddled our lives day in and day out -- brought into our home by many Armenian men (the women rarely told their stories in public) -- overheard by me in Turkish, or Armenian, or broken English, or all three, as I tried to fall asleep on a noisy Sunday evening -- stories of their own lives and others,  or stories that had been handed down to them generation after generation.  But I was not a story teller, or reteller, as my father was.  I had the training, he had the natural talent. He was continuing the oral tradition, but wanted me to record on paper.  I could not.  For one, the tales of woe, I did not want to hear.  And although my heart could understand the throb of the tales of a many-languaged people, my people, the Armenian people, I could not translate these in my language to the Americans, or American-Armenians of the 1960's and 1970's.  Later my brother James must have been inundated with a similar urgency on the part of my father for my brother, liking writing more than I, set himself to the task of putting to paper such characters as Pambook Jack (who told us all that his stomach grew slarge because he had swallowed a watermelon seed long ago) and Khosrov the Barber who never stopped reading French novels, even while clipping hair.  But these were stories my father told; my brother James had missed, because of the ravages of time and death, the stories told by the men themselves.  And then the one man in my father's entourage of friends (and he had many) -- the one man who dared to tell his story, who had been to Der Zor and lived to tell the tale -- my brother would write his story; it was indeed worthy of preserving, so horrible yet true a tale it was.  My brother must hear it for himself. So one evening, my father and mother, uncle and aunt, and my brother went to the C....ian household lugging a 50 pounds reel to reel tape recorder and an empty reel of tape.  Mr C...ian, surrounded by this group, faced by a microphone, with his wife sitting by his side, began the long story of his life which culminated for the evening with a sobbing old man, surrounded by six others sobbing at the story of this very man, then a boy, watching his parents stripped naked and shot to death.  Mr C.....ian never finished his story that night; Mr. C.....ian never finished his story for this audience for no one had the courage, or hardness of heart, or whatever it takes, to go back for the sake of a young man's writing a story to appear in whatever slick magazine or broadside that it might.  Times changed, my brother went on to other things, the tape recorder was sold, and the tape? We're still looking for it.  All of that was the beginning for me.  And then I got older, married, had children.  All of my grandparents were now dead. Many of the old men and women that were so much a part of my childhood and my growing years were dead.  Their stories were gone.  Their feelings, their ideas, their Armenianness, their living experience with history -- all gone.  How were my children to even begin to sense what I had absorbed almost through osmosis all day long, and into the subconscious of my sleeping hours on those Saturday nights?  Perhaps they never would.  Oral histories, unfortunately, cannot bring back the dead or the past.  But they can record, for my children, for myself, for your children, for the world, an experience, an individual Armenian experience, the Armenian experience, on tape.  How the oral histories will be used, and by whom, when they will be used and how, can only be known in the future.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Visiting her grandchildren in Takoma Park, Marash Girl realized that she had not, in fact, followed her own advice and started saving onion skins, and Easter would soon be upon us.  Try the Takoma Park Co-Op, her daughter suggested . . . and good thing, too. Marash Girl walked to the Co-Op and over to the vegetable man.  Do you have any onion skins?  Oh, he said, proudly.  I know why you want onion skins!  There's a woman who comes in here every year for onion skins -- That's my daughter, Marash Girl piped up!  Well, he said proudly, your daughter explained to me how valuable these onion skins become when Easter rolls around.  She said that, for centuries, the Armenians have used the natural dye that emanates from these onion skins to color their Easter eggs! His assistant joined the conversation.  In fact, his assistant added, I have a whole bag of brown onion skins from the yellow onions we just put into the bin.  Do you want them?  He couldn't have made Marash Girl happier.  And now, dear reader, it's time to explain how to color Easter eggs, Armenian style!! (See earlier post on onion skins.)

On Good Friday, gather as many onion skins (from yellow onions) as you have and put them in the bottom of a large pot.  The layer of onion skins should be several inches or more thick in order to cushion the uncooked eggs.  Carefully place uncooked brown eggs (they take the dye more readily)  side by side on the cushion of onion skins.  There should be no space between the eggs, or the eggs may crack during the cooking process.  Carefully cover the onion skins and fresh eggs with cold water and slowly bring the water to a boil. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the pot to absorb the deep red color for 24 hours. [If you leave the eggs amid the onion skins, the Easter eggs will be subtly and beautifully mottled.] The next day, remove the eggs from the pot with a slotted spoon, wipe with towel, and gently place eggs on soft towel to dry.  As soon as they are dry, place the eggs in a bowl in the refrigerator, ready to use on Easter day.

Friday, April 1, 2011


When Marash Girl was in the 9th grade at Day Jr. High School, Dr. Helen Vaznaian was assistant principal, Christian Herter was Governor of Massachusetts, and Edna Boghosian was the Governor's Secretary.  Thus it happened that the governor accepted an invitation to speak to the 9th grade class, the class soon to graduate from Day Jr. High School.  As President of the Student Council, Marash Girl was the Mistress of Ceremonies, and successfully introduced the performers and speakers that preceded the governor who was the high point of the assembly.  Just before the governor was to speak, Marash Girl dutifully announced, "We will now close the assembly by the singing of the Star Spangled Banner."   The principal, taken aback, rushed onto the stage and over to the podium.  Marash Girl had forgotten all about Governor Herter!  The principal, Ralph Morse, kind man that he was, rather than calling Marash Girl an April Fool, simply used the event as a teaching moment:  I guess that's why pencils have erasers, he said, smiling, and suggesting that Marash Girl (who now had a face as red as the blouse she was wearing) introduce Governor Herter to her 9th grade class before (rather than after) she close the assembly!  If nothing else, the 9th grade class had a good laugh on the April Fool of April Fool's Day!

N.B.  Edna Boghosian sat behind Marash Girl's father in homeroom all through Watertown High School and graduated with him in 1932, and Helen Vaznaian was a young girl helping her father in his spa in Medford when Marash Girl's father would go there to fix their refrigerator in the 1930's.