To Daughter on her Birthday

Before you were born, I thought I chose you.
When you took your first breath, I thought I made you.
As you skipped, climbed and jumped, I thought I kept an eye on you.
Over the years, I thought I sculpted you.

Now, as I look back,

Before you were born, YOU were chosen for me.
When you took your first breath, YOU made me.
As you skipped, climbed and jumped, YOU had your eyes on me.
Over the years, YOU sculpted me.

with every year that grows in me,
YOU carve my heart with such precision and grace;
YOU transform even the ugly and chaotic into triumphs
Of beauty and bravery infused with love abundant.

Happy birthday, my jeweled crown.
May you live long.
May you live well
In the abundance of family love profound.


Art work by Anni Barsoum


Posted in family, life, Love, mother daughter, parent | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments


These are tumultuous times. There is conflict, division and dislike turning to hate everywhere I turn. It is difficult to explain exactly what is occurring or why it is happening, but my observations and experiences from the past few months have led me to conclude that civility, under the pretense of free speech, is under siege. Put simply, we are experiencing the death of civility.

By the death of civility, I don’t mean the end of mechanical polite remarks at dinner tables, or a “good morning,” “good evening” greeting to people we meet on a daily walk. Though I wish that there too, people would be more agreeable to lifting their heads and nodding or acknowledging a greeting or presence. But that’s not the worst of it. Rather, the death of civility means people care only about themselves while expecting the worst from others. Society has become too informal, and with that, the agreed-upon rules for respectful behavior, which we were taught, are no longer remembered. Shows like “The Apprentice” and “Survivor” highlight backstabbing behavior as admirable and winning qualities. And then there’s the Internet. The Internet has produced an etiquette-free zone where people can post uncivil criticisms with ease. There is stereotyping, dismissing, ridiculing, and contempt with no end to arguing, squabbling, accusing, distrust and outright rudeness, and no responsibility taken except to say “freedom of speech.” These uncivil behaviors are growing rapidly, and too many people either don’t see it or do see it but don’t care.

There was a time, not long ago, when these things were virtually unheard of. Instead of attacking those they disagreed with, the public generally showed respect and even outright concern for one another. Society valued standards, morals, etiquette and politeness. Certain rules existed for speaking and for behavior, which ensured no one was confused or unnecessarily offended, injured, insulted or ridiculed.

Civility is about more than just politeness. It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility cultivates a civic code of decency. It requires us to discipline our impulses for the sake of others. It demands we free ourselves from self-absorption.

I am disheartened when I read or hear rude comments and vile political stances that demean the very essence of our humanity and create a polarizing animosity that deepens division. We need to think about how our actions affect others in the context of how we would wish to be treated in similar situations. This requires looking inside ourselves to understand the difference between valuable debate of ideals and disrespectful adjectives, and then acting in accordance with our beliefs which should be driven by moral virtues.

Unfortunately, our children are also being exposed to rudeness, vulgarity, and vile behavior that would have been unthinkable in previous generations. Children model adult behavior in real life and on screen. The world is their learning environment. They replicate language and behavior. We are their teachers. And as parents, teachers, coaches, politicians, television producers, and others who impact children’s lives, we have a responsibility to foster civility in children so they grow up with less, not more rudeness and ridicule.

Regrettably, I don’t see this changing anytime soon unless we as parents, as leaders, cultivate a civic code of decency. Because as a world turning away from civility, we are in for tougher times ahead. Studies show that incivility leads to violence, unhealthy communities, and societies paralyzed by conflict and political division. It’s not exactly the kind of world we envision for our kids.

I am convinced that the strength and integrity of a nation or a people depends on a strong foundation that begins in our homes. Indeed, “civility represents a long tradition of moral virtues essential to democracy. Virtues like empathy, humility, integrity, honesty, and respect for others are ideals of democratic engagement.” Without civility a society can morph into verbal, accusatory, offensive attacks on one another which is the way things are in these tumultuous times.

Civility can be a wonderful force capable of bonding people and instituting international brotherhood with differences of beliefs. It is that moral glue which prevents the breakup of society. And while we are in the midst of a crisis threatening the sustenance of society, we can rise above our own impulses and restore the civility we were once taught. It begins by practicing a basic concept: Look in the mirror instead of pointing the finger.

Posted in civility, communication, kindness | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Ya Beirut, Oh Beirut

It’s not unusual for me to receive from friends and acquaintances links to performances and concerts that could stir the heart to ride a wave of nostalgia for a place in one’s memory. But I don’t usually open any of them to allow myself the luxury of reminiscing, and especially not in these days of riskiness and unreliability.

The strangest thing happened to me the other day. I clicked on a link my brother sent me. After all, if my brother thought it worth sharing, then I should at least take the time to click on it. It took me to a concert choir performing a song in Arabic. The title of the song was Ya Beirut (Oh Beirut). Forty five seconds into it I felt my heart flutter and another 20 seconds later when the soloist started to sing, something inside me broke and with no predictions or warning signs the tears started to stream down my face uncontrollably. What was so special or different about this that could cause a tidal wave to burst? Was it the simple arrangement of lyrics to the song or the honeyed voice of the young soloist who sang of a homeland that refuses defeat? Perhaps it was both. Yet there was something more that made me surrender entirely to the music, melody and the lyrics. I was drawn to the soloist. There was a softness in the depth of her radiant eyes that gave her face a familiar definition…an edge of sweetness, a vulnerability that was visible in her smile of rose lips from which flowed the words of a song … a sweet, wrenching song that made the hair on my arms stand up. It made me lean back and weep.

Music accompanied by song does that. However, everyone may not feel what I describe. Some may feel what I felt with another song or type of music, and some, nothing at all. From the ballads of country song to the self-contained arias of opera; from the blue notes of jazz to the religious and folklore spirit of soul music; from rock, pop and rap, to classical, concert or cinematic, whatever the type, the genre or words, it touches a cord within us that resonates in our heart, mind, and spirit. It touches our soul because it expresses what we can’t verbally express ourselves in what or how we feel. We are compelled by it. We are provoked by it. We are moved by it. We are inspired by it. We feel connected to it. It reflects something profound about who we are and our experience in all the different phases of our lives. And we feel a reminiscent connection to that music that takes us back to a certain time or place in our life. There are songs and melodies that remind us of the first time we fell in love, or songs that bring back tender moments, wonderful moments of family gatherings, of picnics and parties; songs that remind us of heartbreak, and songs that awaken in us our culture; songs that delineate our history, of conquest and defeat, of unions and separations; songs that push us to our limits, songs that motivate us and keep us going, songs that strike a cord in our heart’s mind arousing unexpected sadness, and songs that cheer us up, and songs that lift us to another dimension.

Ya Beirut performed by Philokalia choir  and ensemble simply overwhelmed me. The young soloist with whom I felt an inexplicable connection awed me. It wasn’t until the end of the song that I realized my brother had sent me the link to introduce me to her — Hayfa Nour Yeghiayan, a second cousin whom I had not met since I had left Lebanon in the midst of a war around which time she was born soon after.

I listened through my tears. The music and lyrics triggered feelings absorbed through my veins and her voice held the power to undress the ache lodged in my heart under the many layers of my human shield. It reinforced what I longed to remember of Beirut, a city in a country that is the most educated in the region with the most creative and talented, courageous, generous and kindest of peoples. A country that has millenniums of history, that holds the treasured cedar tree of biblical note as the symbol of her pride embedded in her flag, who for years has heroically maintained a balance between the horrors of war and corruption and the semblance of ordinary life, and now, a country that yesterday saw what the world saw—a rain of carnage and destruction from an explosion that rocked the very foundation of an already fragmented city—Ya Beirut.



Posted in music connects, power of music | Tagged , | 13 Comments

I Write With Sorrow

I listen to the news and take a nervous mental stock of recent events that have targeted Armenians, Greeks, and others on the list of Turkey’s vengeful past, present and future.

I delve the most morbid corners of my imagination to find a metaphor or image capable of expressing some of my anxiety. And then I watch in horror as that vision turns into unspeakable reality. July 12th, Azerbaijan attacks Armenia across the Nogorno Karabagh (Arstakh) border. A repeat of 2016, April 2 which turned into a blood bath violating the 1994 ceasefire. Azerbaijan, a close ally of Turkey and fellow denier of the Armenian Genocide, has actively sought the eradication of the region’s indigenous Armenian inhabitants and traces of their millennia-old civilization.

The vision in my mind is like looking through a kaleidoscope except kaleidoscopes form colorful beautiful images. Shake it and a design appears. Shake it again and an altogether different one replaces it. I often wonder if the images will ever end. I shake the kaleidoscope of my mind. Should I write with hope? US congress has condemned Azerbaijan’s attacks. There’s no cease-fire. No handshakes or agreements exchanged. Blood hasn’t stopped flowing. The dead are still being buried.

Shake it again. Perhaps a shift will happen. This time I see despair because, for better or worse, I know what Turkey’s policy is all about. To realize his ultimate goal of leaving behind a legacy that surpasses that of all others, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has set certain objectives for the year 2023, the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic. He aspires to become a new Ataturk seeking to regain control of certain Ottoman territories and change the demographics of areas outside Turkey’s borders.

I shake the kaleidoscope. Do I write with twisted humor? Turkey dispatched the seismic survey ship Oruc Reis to operate in the waters surrounding Greek islands because it seeks to steal resources from recognized Greek and Cypriot exclusive economic zones. Such an action would be in violation of the Lausanne Treaty, which was signed ninety-seven years ago July 24 to tie up loose ends remaining from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty set Turkey’s borders with Bulgaria, Greece, Syria, and Iraq. It is NO coincide that Erdoğan transformed the centuries-old Hagia Sofia from a museum back into a mosque, and scheduled its first formal prayers for July 24, the anniversary of the Lausanne Treaty.

Shake again. I write with anger. Because when it comes to Turkish policy and that of her allies, I know it is not over. Turkey is currently amassing troops on its border in preparation of once again invading and adding to its disastrous October 2019 occupation of northeast Syria.  Atrocities that have resulted in tens of thousands forcibly displaced from their homeland and unable to return are still continuing. Turkey and her allies have escalated violence against civilians who remain in those regions with reports of killings, rapes and kidnappings continuing to emerge. Amid these uncertainties, Turkey has started to spread its tentacles and mobilize its proxies with destruction/vandalism of monuments and religious property and chants of “Death to Armenia,” in cities across the globe (Beirut, Lebanon; Jerusalem, Israel; Baku, Azerbaijan; Seattle, WA; Glendale, CA; San Francisco, CA; Denver, CO.) Armenian Protestors have been attacked in LondonNetherlands, Washington DC, Ukraine , to name a few.

Shake the kaleidoscope. I see the irony. Israel has chosen to take Azerbaijan at face value (after all they are allies with Turkey), accepting oil in exchange for arms deployed against Armenian civilians in the ongoing border confrontation, while Armenia is taking tangible steps toward good faith relations with Israel including a commitment to establish an embassy in Tel Aviv. Ironically, Israel is aware of Azerbaijan’s ties to Turkey, and their hell-bent eradication of the native Armenian population of which Jerusalem will not be exempt. Israel’s current stance goes against the premise of what Jerusalem represents: a place for self-determination and a sanctuary for the persecuted and marginalized.

I shake the kaleidoscope. Denunciation is a must. Time and time again in history, and today and beyond, it seems that a certain personality type remains within the character of a Turk in position of power: the tyrant, calculating and cruel allies with strikingly similar personalities. (“Tell me who your friends are, I’ll tell you who you are.”) They all tend to have a blend of narcissistic and antisocial personality disorder traits such as a lack of empathy, grandiosity, thirst for power and control, lying and deceit, indifference to conventional laws or rules or morality, and more.

One last time, I shake the kaleidoscope and I write with sorrow. The memory of Ottoman domination still haunts Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Cypriots and others who have suffered massacres at the hands of the Turkey and her allies. I write with sorrow because international communities and the US shut the kaleidoscope of their vision and ignore the grave consequences of Turkey’s actions behind her allies.

I write with sorrow because the places that are symbolic of its people’s rebirth will soon become their burial ground.

Dread churns in my stomach.





Posted in genocide, war | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Be A Patriot

I am an American. And because America is largely a nation of immigrants, I am also, like the majority of you, something else. And when I became a citizen of the United States, I swore to uphold and protect the Constitution and the laws of this nation. I, like many who came to this country from distant lands generations ago, to the recently naturalized citizen, embrace my sense of belonging to this country and the democratic merits for which it stands by living and endorsing the fundamental foundational patriotic principles incorporated in America’s constitutional values. In those values are– participation, deliberation, fairness, equality, dissent, accountability, liberty, and the common good.

Recently in the heated debates over political policy, I found that many of the immigrants who are also “something else” easily forget that to be an American patriot is to participate and uphold those same values that are entrusted to us in the constitution.

There are countless ways that define a person who claims to be a patriot. And I DON’T mean hanging The Stars and Stripes from storefronts or gates at rodeos or seeing her fly high in used car lots. I don’t mean flaunting the Red White and Blue on blue jean “derriere” pockets or having her adorn men and women’s underwear. I don’t mean plastering The Star-Spangled Banner on plumbers and AC equipment trucks or having her flap away on the bed of huge pickup trucks barreling down highways and freeways. I don’t mean using her as a piece of cloth we wear to mask our faces, or to absorb the sweat off our brow as bandanas or caps. I’m not referring to any of these uses as symbols of patriotism which in all honesty have nothing to do with the honor and respect owed those who died for Old Glory when they pledged their allegiance to insure your life, your liberty, your property and justice for all.

To be a patriot isn’t just standing for the National Anthem and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. These are obvious ones. But the most beneficial acts of patriotism are those that make the country stronger through your participation and accountability toward the common good. A few of these important givens include participating and registering to vote and voting in elections; volunteering for community service or running for elected government office; serving on juries; obeying all laws and paying taxes; and understanding the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities contained in the U.S. Constitution. Out of all of these acts of patriotism, the only mandatory constitutional duty of a citizen  is to serve on juries.

Many of you naturalized “something else” associates speak of your rights allowed you by the Constitution. You speak of the wondrous opportunities granted you within the 50 or more years of being naturalized into the framework of the country. You speak of life and the right to protect it. You speak of liberty and defend your freedom. You speak of your property/ies in your pursuit of happiness and guard them as your entitlement. You speak of patriotism. You speak of being proud Americans. Yet when it comes to the one mandatory constitutional duty of every citizen, to serve on juries, you shrink from the responsibility and make arguments by any means necessary to be excused from this highest position of power in a courtroom. Jurors, not judges, determine whether the government has proven its charge against a defendant; jurors, not judges, determine whether a party seeking damages deserves an award. Yet every week, I see people strive by any means necessary to be excused from exercising this authority. Avoiding jury duty undermines the very core component in guaranteeing constitutional rights for everyone.

Every day there are people who wake up and put the flag on their arm to serve others for life, liberty and property and they do so to serve the people like you and me whom they do not know. I am sure there are times when they do not want to do what they are called to do, but they do it because it is a duty that they have sworn to and they do it with pride and honor. Every now and then you as the average citizen has to get up to do his or her duty. Most of you fought hard to be a citizen of this country so when called to duty, it is your responsibility to step up and have your voice heard as a juror because only in America is an ordinary citizen given the dutiful opportunity to consider the evidence presented, to apply the governing law, and to deliberate in good faith to render a just verdict.  And when you leave the courthouse, regardless of the outcome or verdict, you will probably have a renewed faith in the system because you were part of it. That’s what makes America great. We the people.




Posted in accountability, Duty and honor, justice, Old Glory, patriotism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Celebrate Baba

My father, Baba, who is now passed away for 15 years, is the golden rod by which I measure the greatness of a man, and the example by which I have chosen my husband and the legacy I pass on to my children.

I carry much of my father within me. It is a treasure that lasts, that transcends me and pushes me to live life by using the gifts he gave me during his time on this earth.

Baba was born in hard times but he was not hardened by the times. He rose to the occasion when faced with challenges, and the mark of his resilience after a hard days work was his ever present smile when he walked through the front door. He was a gentleman. He was always ready to lend a hand to those in need or in trouble without any expectation of something in return. It mattered not whether the person was a child, young, adult or old. All were equal in his kindness. He would say “kindness is the best investment that earns unlimited dividends in life.” He greeted each day with gratitude and never once complained about mishaps, misfortunes or life’s “imperfections.”

Baba believed in the rewards of an education, and every morning while he shaved, if I complained about having to wake up to go to school, he would sing out loud a song in Armenian about the joy of gaining knowledge. He believed in keeping an open mind and said “life is a school for perpetual learning.”

Baba was a thoughtful man of faith. His optimism was witness to his deep knowing of an omnipotent existence. I recall on occasion when he would recite a short prayer before he tucked me and my brother in for the night. To this day I repeat the prayer to my grandchildren. He led me to see the world through his eyes and created in my mind a world of possibilities where magic, mystery, the sacred, all meet in the presence of godliness. I have the privilege of Baba’s optimism woven into my being.

While father (and mother) have long left this world, they are still by my side with the gifts they gave me as inheritance. Today and everyday, I celebrate Baba by using the gifts he gave me in my life journey, and by sharing snippets of him (and my mother) in stories about my beautiful life.

To all fathers whether they left us a long time ago or are still by our side, Happy Father’s Day.


Posted in father, kindness, legacy, life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

George Floyd is America

I am white. And much as I hate to admit it, the reality is that my skin color comes with white privilege as opposed to black or brown privilege. Until I have had to walk in black or brown skin, I will never understand how much I as white, take for granted in my daily living which is not granted to people of color. And until we as Americans come to terms and accept that we are not a colorblind society, that we are responsible for racism to still exists in America, we will remain contributors to the problems at hand, having lobbied and continue to lobby against humans simply on the basis of the color of their skin.

It is important for us as white Americans to understand that there is persistent injustice for people of color that runs from racial profiling to police violence to murder. In the U.S., 1(one) in 1000 black boys and men will be killed by police in their lifetime, while for white boys and men, the rate is 39 out of 100,000 according to a new study conducted by Frank Edwards, of Rutgers University’s School of Criminal Justice, Hedwig Lee, of Washington University in St. Louis’s Department of Sociology, and Michael Esposito, of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

We watch the murder of George Floyd, aghast that such a criminal act can happen while other officers look on. We watch events unfurl on our TV screens and newsfeeds; and as the protests turn into riots, we shake our heads, point fingers, and give our privileged explanations calling the rioters anarchists and losers, establishing that the rioters have little to do with the killing of George Floyd. Maybe so, and I absolutely do not condone rioting and looting, but we cannot ignore that the violence and destruction is a result of frustration built up over years of pent-up anger at a system that has for decades worked against them, telling them that they are less human and therefore inferior to the white race. And this racism they are fighting is still alive and well throughout our nation. This racism is what we should all be fighting.

I am often moved to hit the streets to peacefully protest against unequal policing, racism and the perceived devaluation of black American lives. I have participated in many marches against injustices, and inevitably, once among the massive crowds, there has always been and there will always be the individuals whose motives are difficult to discern and whose emotions are led not by intelligence but by committing vicious and heinous acts. Meanwhile we, as white America continue to ignore the real underlying problem of racial tensions that exist in our nation, and we dehumanize for their bad and violent decisions, the rioters and looters who know not how else to become “agents of change.” The true protesters want an end to racist police practices, an end to the criminalization of being black and an end to the killings. They want to be the agents of change.

Instead of tearing down these human beings who are acting out of sheer frustration through years of longstanding grievances, and who don’t know what else to do, we ought to be reaching out to help them regain the humanity they lost. We ought to be helping them exercise their right to voice their demands loudly to their government. We ought to be helping them in demanding better and constructive responses from the authorities, from the President, from the governors to the mayors to the police who have all cheapened black life with the systematic discrimination and brutality directed at black and brown people. And to add fuel to the fire, the officers in the majority of cases were not charged for their crimes. Here are just a handful of names of people who succumbed to deadly force used by police —Alton Sterling, Terence Crutcher, Stephon Clark, Eric Garner,  Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and countless others.

Floyd’s name is now added to a long list of black men killed by cops. Floyd’s murder and the ensuing riots shed light on America’s broad racial divide, which, despite the strides made by the Civil Right’s movement of the ‘60 –shamefully still exists in this great country that claims to be and should be better than the rest. George Floyd is not an aberration; George Floyd is America. And we as Americans are accountable and must share that responsibility.



Posted in accountability, death, equality, justice, racism | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

I Will Not Complain

complaintWhile I’d like to think that I’m not much of a complainer, I’ve come to realize that complaining is something we all do without even recognizing it. To set the record straight, I am not a chronic complainer. Sure, here and there I will fuss about my day…traffic was worse than expected; the gardener didn’t fix the sprinkler; the movie was disappointing; too much dust from the construction across the street; and so on—but I’m a firm believer in the power of positivity, knowing that complaining focuses only on the negative and sets oneself to fail at the outset. And yet….

Wasn’t it just two months ago I complained that we were overspending on eating out and we needed to cut back that activity? Seems like that’s not a problem now considering most restaurants have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wasn’t it two months ago I said it I’d like to break away from opulent and high priced dinner banquets that cater to the elite status? That doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore given the “ban” on large group gatherings. Wasn’t it over two months ago I grumbled that I spent too much time on the road with traffic that I lacked time with my family? Now it seems my travel plans are keeping me home spending time with my family. In truth, I’m exhausted, emotionally and physically from these months and I barely have time to process my day each night, but I can’t complain. Life and everything about it is still so sweet.

In reality, I have nothing to complain about and everything to appreciate. I come from a strong and proud Armenian family who through the worst period in their history maintained their identity, their culture, and their overwhelming love for life. I grew up with a father who taught me that survival depended on optimism and the fierce fighting spirit of love for family. I grew up with a mother who taught me that the true measure of human worth is not in what we gain but in the sacrifices we are willing to make for the people we love and the ideals in which we believe. I grew up in a country whose people saw their hopes, their dreams and vision crushed by war and who, despite the governing hand that they’ve been dealt, still try to preserve their human dignity and character. Today, we are living in one of those periods in our history that will be marked by changes in all of humanities ideas and values, and human dignity and character will be questioned.

In my wallet, I keep three neatly folded pieces of paper; though I have learned them by heart from a very young age, I refer to them constantly. One says, “Do unto others whatever you would have them do unto you. This is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Another says, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) And the third is a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night day, Thou canst not be false to any man.” At the end of my day, I meet my God. And before I unleash my mind to sleep I ask, “Did I do so unto others? Did I guard against greed? Did I measure up to that, this day?” My meet with Him is candid. I take inventory of my actions and deeds. It covers my thoughts, impulses, inclinations and temptations. What thoughts did I have today? Who did I ignore? Were my intentions noble?

Exhausting as it may be, I will not complain. I consider this current situation a time to pause, to take a giant step back and look at the whole picture. This is the time for each of us to look within ourselves to reevaluate, to find purpose in ideas and decide by which ideals we will live. I look to my golden rules to make and strengthen me in my time on this sweet planet. I want to give to this planet something more that just my labor and material accomplishments (or lack thereof); something that can be measured as good in the sight of our God; something that adds value to His faith in humanity.

Everything in life is still sweet. We are not what we have lost and we are not what has been taken from us. I will not complain because I am the next generation of a great family who entrusted me with their loving survival spirit to cultivate good thoughts and consciously live by God’s wisdom.

I might fuss here and there, but I will not complain.


Posted in faith, family, God | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments


Tonight, I lay me down to sleep
A simple prayer I recite
Carved in memory to keep alive
the treasury of childhood archives.

And in the nectar of my thoughts
Her arms, a wingspan, fold gently
Embracing the child in me.

Her scent, a fragrance of lemon,
Drifts through the window in the breeze,
While her voice, like a whisper in my ear
Floats in prayer toward heaven’s tier.

Her words, roots of wisdom, planted
Long ago in my bosom
Seem to sprout, like seeds
Branching from under my tongue.

Her love, folded like a handkerchief
tucked neatly into my heart;
Her name, a ribbon wrapped around that love
Laces the distance between my now
and her forever more.

Mother. Now and forever more,
like a fledgling crying for its nest,
I cry  her name, Mother.

Mother and Child art by Sudhir Bangar
Posted in Love, mother | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Yeva, a Mother

I met Yeva for the first time one afternoon at her home while waiting for Ohan to arrive. She lived upstairs in one of the traditional Lebanese homes of stone with beautiful high arches and windows that showed off the decorative wrought iron work of early 20th century architecture. A long flight of marbled stairs worn out from years of use ran up the side of the building leading to a balcony entrance. Sweet smelling rayhan (basil) potted in large painted cans lined the foot of the iron handrails at the side of the staircase and perimeter of the balcony.

Yeva opened the door. She was a small woman, but not in any way frail. She was well built, with a dark complexion and prominent features. She had thick black eyebrows that formed a semicircle around her deep-set eyes that peered through heavy lashes. Her hair, thick waves of black hugged the nape of her neck and fell forward to circle around her V-shaped chin. Her thin lips formed a welcoming smile as she invited me in. The main room had a dining table set for three, and there were two sofas facing each other separated by a coffee table. Clean ashtrays lay on colorful embroidered tablemats. The aroma of a home cooked meal wafted from the kitchen into the room. She said she had food cooking on the stove and wanted to make sure it was ready before her daughter came home from school and would I care to join her in the kitchen until Ohan arrived?

Yeva was born in a refugee camp to parents who made use of salvaging whatever they could from the city’s trash dump. She was the youngest and only girl of three siblings. They lost their mother to tuberculosis when she was 13 years old and by the time she was 14, she dropped out of school to clean houses while her father found a construction job outside of the city and moved away with her two older brothers. Yeva had a dream. She dreamed of going to college and one day finding true love with someone who would stand by her and value her, and she would him.  She secretly “borrowed” books from the homes she cleaned to remain a student applying herself obsessively to gain knowledge. The best part of her day was rushing to her tin and cardboard home, to catch the last rays of sunlight before turning to the gas lamp to light the pages of a book she devoured with her eyes and mind. Then one day, at the age of 16 she fell in love with an older man who showered her with intellectual sophistication and words of false adoration. She gave him her heart and body. He made a promise to marry her until the day she informed him she was pregnant. He took her by the hands, pressed an envelope of money into her palm and in less than two minutes, he was gone, out of her life. She grieved. She grieved for wasted love, for loss of her heart and for a life without marriage. But she was strong. She had lived life in survival mode and now more than ever she needed to fend for herself. She had Ohan, her son to raise. She would give him all the opportunities of an education that she never had. She put aside all dreams, vowing to never again surrender to love. She no longer believed in true love. She used the power of her beauty, which brought her many well-dressed and well-groomed men to pay for sex services rendered. She had her regulars and she chose her hours. Ten years after Ohan was born she had her daughter. Throughout her profession as a sex worker she never let her work interfere with her children’s schedule.  Her parental diligence was among her top priority. Earning a living to provide for her children and determined to give them a life she did not have, Yeva kept a clean house, provided neatly washed and ironed clothes on their back and a hot nutritious meal every day for her children.

There was something sad and mysterious in Yeva’s story written in the worry lines on her face. And then Ohan walked in with his sister. The lines around Yeva’s mouth, the deep crevices that formed around her cheeks and eyes as a broad smile appeared at the sight of them were witness to a love greater than what she imagined true love to be. In spite of everything, Love had found her and she had surrendered to it.

Yeva, above all else, was a mother.

Line art drawing by Agnes Cecile. Painting of Girl in Red Chair by Shota.



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