Things I Miss About Childhood

My mother’s hand on my ear
Believing it was what made the pain go away

Fortochki, a Russian word for small windows
Cut out on top of windows
Which my grandmother would always tell me to open in the evenings
To let in the fresh, cool breeze we could count on
No matter how hot a day it had been

The old woman who sold roasted sunflower seeds
Sitting on a cushion on the sidewalk
On my way home from school
The way she rolled a sheet of newspaper into a cone
Poured the seeds into it
Counting the cups
One, two, three
Always three for me

Not knowing I didn’t have a father
Not being angry that I hadn’t been told I didn’t have a father

Not knowing I had six siblings
Two of whom had to die
So I could be born
It’s a long story, this one

The smell of tomatoes, apricots, melons, peaches, basil, and dill
The bargaining in the bazaar
The shoujoukh hanging over neatly arranged rows of dried apricots and figs
Yogurt so thick the spoon would stand in the cup
My grandmother always made me eat yogurt before bed
She said it was good for me

My grandmother’s hands
Patching socks
Sealing jars
Wrapping dolma
Rolling dough
Whipping wool
Picking out fabrics for dresses and skirts she would make for me
Desperately pleading with me to take off my pants
Look like the other girls
Her hands
Resting in her lap over an apron
Always, her aprons

Playing with rocks and sticks
Jumping rope
Watching the same movies and cartoons, over and over again
Not knowing I was missing anything by having only four television channels
Playing the same movies and cartoons, over and over again

Spontaneous trips to Lake Sevan
For trout
For a swim

Rest stops on the side of the road
On cliffs
In mountains
Or fields of raging red poppies
Picking wild flowers
Making wreaths and putting them on
Before running wild through grass so tall
I would get lost
Find my way back chasing the sound of my mother’s laughter

Eating hard boiled eggs with fresh tarragon
Wrapped in lavash, still warm from the embrace of the tandoor
Waiting for the meat
Peeling skin off perfectly roasted eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes
Soaking fingertips in a bowl of ice cold water from the stream
So they wouldn’t burn
Changing the water when it browned

Rolling layers of roasted vegetables in lavash
Just the right amount of salt and pepper
Nothing else
Eating one dooroom after the other
Even though I wasn’t a big eater
The fresh mountain air made me hungry
That’s what my grandmother would say

Speaking my language
Tasting it on my tongue
Feeling one with it
Belonging to it
Never imagining that I could be apart from it for longer than it takes to
Say a few words in Russian
Still blending them into my own language
Nu hima tentsa eli, davay el chkhosanq

Going to church to light candles
Every time something good happened or
Someone died or
I had a math test the next day

Having a grandmother who worked at the church and
Taught me how to make communion wafers and
Let me eat as many as I wanted
While they were still warm and soft
Before they hardened for those who would come for mass on Sunday

I avoided the masses
Only went into the church when it was empty
Something about other people’s whispered prayers
Made me uneasy
They weren’t meant for my ears

But I liked making wafers
I liked their taste
Although it was bland and
Made me want something sweet
It was a good thing I knew where my grandmother hid the chocolates
Where she knew I would find them

Thinking my mother would always be alive
Even when I knew it wasn’t possible

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