Friday, September 16, 2011

From Godiva to Whitman's - Bir yumurshak var mu?

Recently, at a planning meeting  for the Harvard Radcliffe Reunion (won't tell you which one), Marash Girl and Harvard Man were assigned the task of ordering a souvenir fit for Reunion attendees to carry home with them.  In jest, Harvard Man suggested a box of Godiva Chocolates, which Marash Girl thought was a fine idea except for the fact that the box would never make it home intact, much less become a souvenir, unless the celebrants would consider an empty box a fitting memory of their college years -- now there's a thought!

Beyond that, the box, in order to be a proper souvenir, would have to be a Whitman's Sampler, for in those days, Godiva was an English lady who rode naked through the streets of Coventry on horseback and not a box of chocolates.  Whitman's Sampler -- you know, the yellow box that opens on a hinge and has a plan printed inside its cover identifying the different types of candies in the box so that those among us who could read English could decide which candy we should sample.

All of the above (does the phrase remind you of a multiple choice test on a college entrance exam?) reminds me of my childhood when, wherever our family went to visit a relative in our old Chevrolet (won't tell the year), just before arriving at our destination, Marash Girl's father would pull up in front of a drug store to buy a box of -- no, not drugs --  a Whitman's Sampler to take to the home of our hosts.  Almost always, it was a home where there would be a very old lady all dressed in black, a widow who had survived the Armenian genocide, an aunty who knew no English, whose eyes would light up when she saw the box of Whitman's chocolates.  

Although she was baking cheoreg in the oven for us (and we could smell the wonderful sweet yeasty aroma of those Armenian sesame rolls as soon as we entered her home),  our hostess upon settling us in her living room, would break open the cellophane wrapping to the box of Whitman's chocolates we had brought and offer the candies to us, her guests.  The eyes of her elderly mother (or mother-in-law, as the case may have been) would light up and Aunty would ask (not knowing English and eyeing the box of chocolates), Bir yumurshak var mu?  Is there a soft one?  To this day, I remember that phrase, because we kids HATED soft centered chocolates and if at home, would furtively press our thumb under the chocolate to see if white gooey stuff would emerge, and when the goo appeared, we would replace the chocolate in its paper nest to hide the fact that it had been mutilated.

So how do I end this post?  What do you say, Harvard Man?  Do we get those Godiva Chocolates?  Are we at the age yet where we'll have to ask, Bir yumurshak var mu?


  1. when i reached, 'to this day...' i started laughing and could not stop for many a second. i remember all that so well. our dear father never missed an opportunity. as they say, 'he had understanding'. and the soft centered ones that we would mutilate, and then turn upside down and nestle them back into their alcove to hide their assaulted status? that is such a funny remembrance, it was like yesterday. martha and you were so chumeech! it brings to mind something else..the day martha and I lined up all the shot glasses dad had, about a dozen, must have been bought by the dozen, because dad rarely ever took a shot of whiskey, on the kitchen table, placed a bottle of ROOT BEER in front of us, and proceeded to act out the roles of 2 cowboys at a bar bent on drinking the other underneath the table. at the end of the slugfest, one slug at a time, martha and I had drowned our sobriety in fits of laughter, finally collapsing in a celebration of cowboy drunkeness, with our bodies slumped over the kitchen table, completely in our cups, as they say.

  2. Chocolates were not the only gift our parents brought to these orphans, widows, stranded wayfarers, survivors of the war against humanity. these were people who survived by clinging to the life raft of their faith, the NOT SO QUIET congregation of cousins and neighbors greeted on a sunday morning, or a saturday morning at the market. These were mourners who braved their day with the sunlight of the new world which greeted them with the valley of the shadow of light, with a safe landing, with the laughter of green shoots of grass, their children and grandchildren. we were the sweets in their life. The chocolates dad brought them was a formality to usher into their presence the balm of Gilead, the sweetness AND SOFTNESS of his children, smiling little encomiums of the sun, to subvert the dreamy status of the memories of their own childhood. we children awoke them from the darkness of their adolescent night. What we were for those we visited, we were for our parents, as well.

  3. Loved the Harvard reunion blog and especially the candy and root-beer comments!

    I do remember Aunty Mary bringing the soft center cherry chocolates that we would squeeze from the bottom . . . the only problem was, the cherry would fall out and thus the mountainous shape would collapse into a pile of cracked pieces of thin milk chocolate which we tried desperately to artistically re-shape (as if we were collecting snow for the finest & smallest snowball.).
    As for ‘belly up to the root-beer bar”, I can’t even utter the word root-beer without a vivid picture of that very moment . . . lining up the shot glasses and gulping down the drink like the cowboys at the saloon . . . we were so drunk with laughter and falling on the floor. TO THIS DAY, just the word root-beer makes me laugh hysterically.