This morning, the girls and I arrived to church a hot mess. My hair was wild, having left the house while it was still damp. Pumpkin with sniffles. Peanut already with a hole in her tights. We dropped Pumpkin off with her Sunday school class later than ever.
Church is fairly new to us. We used to mostly come on Easter (we attend my mother-in-law’s church on Christmas). But during the annual Armenian genocide commemoration events last spring, Pumpkin said she was interested in learning Armenian, and I was motivated to keep the language and culture alive. I myself took Armenian as a pre-schooler, but haven’t since. I told her she could learn and teach me. So she started Armenian school in the fall, a combination of Armenian language and Sunday school.
It’s been a big change in our routine, a 3-to-5 hour commitment, depending on the week, when I previously would have been meal planning and grocery shopping and doing laundry and preparing for the week ahead. And some weeks it’s been a challenge to squeeze it all in. But we’ve honored our commitment and I’ve taken her to every class, save for Fall Break when we were traveling. And sometimes Peanut tags along.
Sitting through a 2-hour service in a language we don’t understand while Pumpkin is in class is a lot to ask of a 3-year-old, try as we might. Today we took a snack break, and walked behind the church where we hadn’t before. Along the sidewalk, words were imprinted in the concrete. It took me a minute to recognize that they were names of cities and towns. Bursa, outside Constantinople, where my grandpa’s parents immigrated from. Aleppo, where my grandma’s parents were born. And many others.
Along the side, it read:
“Martyred for our faith in these places here we worship still.”
Now, I’m not a genocide scholar, but I’m confident in saying what led to the Armenian Genocide was far more complex than simply the fact that Armenians were Christians.
But on such a day that it felt like a chore to go, when I could think of a million other things that needed to be done, when I was tired and rushed and cranky, it was a poignant and timely reminder of why we were there. That, a century after an attempt to wipe out our ancestors, we are lucky to be here. And it’s a honor – and a responsibility- to pass on what we can. As an American of Armenian and Irish descent, I’m still discovering what my Armenian ancestry means, and where I fit in. But I’m determined to keep learning.