"His polished, sometimes even poetic prose evokes a sense of curiosity and lament. In response to his family’s silence—and to the silence of a whole people still shellshocked by their grim treatment—Kalajian has become a professional storyteller and an excellent one at that." Kirkus Reviews

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My daughter got married last year. And the year before—and once again in between. Lucky for her husband, she chose him every time.

I’ve been too busy with weddings to write anything for months. Believe me, it is a lot of work being father of the bride, and it does not get easier the third time.

Here’s the amusing side of all these weddings: We have only one daughter, Mandy, and she’s had only one husband, Ron.

They apparently just like getting married to each other.

The first ceremony took us by surprise, although we knew it was coming. Mandy and Ron had tipped us off that they planned to be married at a date to be announced, and Ron even extended the old-fashioned courtesy of asking for our blessing even though he certainly knew our approval would be immediate and enthusiastic.

Wedding I at the
city clerk's office
The surprise came when my wife and I were visiting family in New Jersey just over a year ago. Mandy and Ron asked us to join them for a day out in Manhattan, where they live and work. She didn’t mention that our destination would be the city marriage bureau.

After a brief ceremony, the four of us took a cab to Chinatown for lunch. I’m pretty sure the ride was the day’s biggest expense.

Is anything in life ever just that simple?

Our dim-sum feast was delicious but it didn’t satisfy Mandy and Ron’s appetite for sharing their happiness. Their solution was to plan Wedding II, which Mandy assured us would be an intimate affair for their closest friends. As it turned out, they have as many close friends as I have gray hairs.

That’s a silly exaggeration, of course. I don’t have nearly that many hairs of any color these days.

Months of planning and hard work culminated in a four-day party in the Catskill Mountains, where Ron has owned a get-away house for some time. They both enjoy a weekend of small-town bliss there whenever they can escape the crush of the city. This time, the city came with them.

Their legion of smart, funny and creative friends took turns riding a ski lift to gather on a grassy mountaintop. There, Mandy and Ron exchanged vows while a jazz band played All Of Me.

It was great fun, if not much like anything my wife and I were raised to think of as a traditional Armenian wedding. Fair enough, we thought, as Ron wasn't Armenian—not yet, anyway.

Wedding II
on the mountain 
But the reception did feature Armenian wine, brandy and coffee. And we enjoyed a pre-wedding family feast of Armenian foods that my wife and I spent days cooking. This led to Ron discovering the joy of eating leftover dolma for breakfast. There is no going back to odar life after that.

Ron had caught enough of the spirit to place little Armenian flags along the dinner table. Better yet, he contributed to the dinner’s most important element by helping me refurbish the shish kebab machine that my late father-in-law made many years ago. Now it will serve a new generation for years to come.

When the festivities concluded, Mandy and Ron set off for the Grand Canyon and other points West. “Two weddings should be enough for anyone,” I joked, but neither one laughed.

“Dad!” Mandy said in exasperation. “We still need to get married in an Armenian church.”

She’d had that in mind all along, as it turned out—and not just any Armenian church, but St. David Armenian Apostolic Church in Boca Raton, which she attended while growing up. “The wedding doesn’t have to be a big deal this time,” she added.

Now it was my turn to laugh: There is no such thing as a small-deal Armenian wedding.

One complication soon became apparent: Mandy and Ron had killer schedules stretching to nearly the end of the year. Wedding III and Honeymoon II would have to somehow straddle Christmas and New Year’s Day.

When Mandy posed the scheduling challenge to the Rev. Father Paren Galstyan, he cheerfully assured her they’d find a date that worked but he raised a challenge of his own. Mandy and Ron would have to attend a series of counseling sessions at which Ron would have to learn pretty much everything about our church.

That was a stumper, as Mandy and Ron live more than a thousand miles from the church and they were likely to arrive with little time to spare. “Don’t worry,” the priest said. “I Skype.”

Clearing up these little details took months. While a suitable date did emerge, the three essential parties couldn’t find common Skype time before Mandy and Ron arrived in Florida just days before the ceremony.

As expected, Father Paren’s cheerfully confident response was, “Don’t worry.” He solved the problem by turning what they thought would be a brief meeting into a day-long cram session on the beliefs, rituals and history of the Armenian Church.

If you don’t think that amounts to much, consider that the Armenian people accepted Christianity 1,706 years ago.  I’ve had a lifetime to learn it all and I still have to watch my wife to be sure when to stand up and when to sit down during a typically brisk two-and-a-half-hour Sunday service.

God bless Ron! He took it all very seriously, and he continued to pay rapt attention through rehearsal. The ceremony came off without a hitch. He and Mandy looked like a truly royal Armenian couple wearing the crowns that identified them as king and queen of their own realm.  

In the end, each wedding was wonderful in its own way but the third was definitely the charm—a true blessing as well as homage to all the generations before us who walked this same path.

Wedding III
Armenian at last!
Father Paren was a blessing himself, employing just enough English to make the ceremony understandable to our many non-Armenian guests. We thanked him especially for making Ron feel very much at home.

 “Is he Armenian now?” my wife asked jokingly. Father Paren looked serious. “He didn’t need all this just to be Armenian. It’s ABC: He’s Armenian By Choice!” 

The rewards of being Armenian may not always be obvious to others but they are very real and important to all of us. Ron has already discovered one of the most important: Sometimes when you are very lucky, there is leftover dolma for breakfast.

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding. I love the way you explained the crowns as king and queen of their own realms. And, of course these will overlap! You must be so proud of your daughter and now you have a son.

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