When Nisha asked me to be her Maid of Honor, she made it clear that I was not to do anything with hair, make-up, or table settings. I easily agreed to those conditions, but suspected I could still make Nisha regret the decision. I succeeded in this endeavor first at the bachelorette party, and I intend for her to regret it, again, tonight.
I’m the little sister who is so close in age, I always thought I belonged with Nisha and her friends. Only 15 months behind her (FYI, breastfeeding is not a fool proof birth control method), I was always trying to be like Nisha. But, Nisha was a tough older sister to try to keep up with.
Growing up, we spent a lot of time at our Grandma and Grandpa’s house and the room we slept in there had two double beds about 4 feet apart from each other. As we leapt back and forth across this chasm, Nisha informed me that she was flying. I insisted that I, too, was flying. She watched me go across and assured me that no, in fact, I was jumping. She went again to show me what flying looked like. I tried again. Again, she informed me, I was jumping. I was almost sure we were doing the exact same thing. And, still, I believed, that somehow what she was doing was flying and I was doomed to only ever be able to jump.
In addition to being blessed to have our grandparents deeply involved in our lives, we also got to spend a lot of time with our aunts, who found great delight in our antics. Our Aunt Arppie would laugh hysterically while relating stories of our adventures with her. One of her favorites was from a time she took Nisha and me to a petting farm when we were still quite young. At some point, Nisha had managed to get both her hands through the fence and stretch so she could pet two sheep at once. Knowing my sister was an over achiever, I apparently helpfully suggested that if she took her shoe off, she could pet a third as well.
But it was not only in her flying abilities and ambidextrous physical coordination that Nisha was hard to follow. As an adolescent, Nisha kept the catalogue for Connecticut Biological Supply Company, next to her Seventeen Magazine. She fantasized about the amoebas and protozoans she would request for her birthday and Christmas. Eventually, she had her whole lab set up in my father’s study, a harbinger of things to come.
Nisha also studied how to be a good Dandigin (an Armenian housewife) at the feet of our Metzmama, my father’s mother. I watched her master skill sets, such as sarma rolling and tahini hatz making, that I could never quite grasp. Today, Nisha’s cream kadayif, along with so much else, would make Metzmama proud.
Sometimes, however, I could be Nisha’s equal. And that was when it came to making mischief. In general, Grandma spoiled us rotten. But, on occasion, Nisha and I managed to test her patience to the point that even Grandma lost it. One day, we were behaving especially badly and my grandmother suggested that perhaps we needed “a little slap on the fanny”. This sent us into a round of hysterics when my grandmother finally left the room, and led to a new game. We linked arms facing in opposite directions. Then we ran in circles, each trying to slap the others rear end and trying not to get slapped. We sang a little song that went something like “a little slap on the fanny just won’t hurt, hurt, hurt.” I’m sure Nisha wrote the song. I could never have come up with such inspired lyrics.
In the 20 (plus or minus) years since we have lived in the same home, I have continued to look up to Nisha and she has been there through challenging times for me and my family. There have been many situations in which it has turned out to be quite beneficial to have a nearly perfect big sister.
So when I started hearing about this guy, John, who seemed to be playing a pretty prominent role in Nisha’s life, I called Karoun to find out the deal. Karoun had good things to say about them and talked about what a perfect fit they were for each other. She went on to give an example about the amount of time they spend talking to each other about things she found to be dreadfully boring, such as the particulars of their grocery shopping trips. She mentioned the fact that they both actually seemed interested in the mind-numbing specifics of the other’s trip to Trader Joe’s. Karoun commented to me, “Their profiles must have both read something like, ‘Brilliant person seeking another brilliant person who likes to talk about the most boring things in the world in an excruciatingly detailed way.’” Of course, as we watched their relationship bloom, Karoun and I realized that these detailed conversations were just one way that Nisha and John wanted to spend every moment with each other, and did so vicariously, when they could not do it in person.
I first met John when I came home at Christmas. In addition to helping with all of the chaotic preparations for a 50 person holiday party, John was studying Armenian words and asking my mother for help with pronunciations. The Odars (that’s non-Armenians) that the other siblings were dating were like, “Slow your roll, man. You’re making us look bad.”
But doting on every detail of Nisha’s life and ingratiating himself to our proud Armenian heritage was not enough. As in every good fairytail, our archetypal hero must pass a test to prove his worthiness before he can marry the princess. And the standards are high in the Charkoudian household.
In the frenzy of preparation for the Christmas party, our mother was looking for something in the jam packed freezer. Ever helpful, John jumped up to assist. While my mother looked on the top shelves, John was on his hands and knees rummaging through the bottom shelves. Next thing we knew, a frozen quart of beef stew fell from the top shelf right onto John’s prostrate head. Nisha led John to the couch where she checked his pupils and eventually to the ER where they checked for a concussion. We were all mortified, not least of all our mother.
The rest of us sat around that evening talking about what a nice guy John had been and what a shame that it should end this way. But, damn, if he did not come back the next day. And the next. And the next.
John, himself, of course, is a glorious addition to our family. But it just keeps getting better. He comes with ready-made cousins! Aline, Raffi, and Dylan could not be happier and we are all delighted to bring Vivian, Josie, Cece, and Jack into our family as well.
Once more, Nisha, I find myself looking up to you. Watching you and John, I learn more about how to love. I’ll be taking notes for many years to come. I love you both and wish you all the happiness in the world. And if things ever get boring, just remember, a little slap on the fanny just won’t hurt, hurt, hurt.