Thursday, June 28, 2018

And Graduation Kudos go to ... The Parents!

Lucas graduation!
It's the last week of school and congratulations are due all around! No matter what age or grade we are finishing up, each and every one of us has somehow had a rite-of-passage graduation party at school totally stripping any meaning of actual accomplishments and rites of passage.

Raia gymnastics "graduation/open house/
not really graduation"

Raia pre-K graduation! She was the least interested

Me! (the one in blue) My ballet recital

After ballet recital lavishing sunflowers on my instructor

To further erode any significance of our accomplishments, each and every extra-curricular activity has or will host its own end-of-year party. Of course! Even if it was a mere "open lesson" because the participants were too young to put on a show, it was yet another appointment for parents to put on their Calendar of Guilt to attend or not be able to attend due to scheduling conflicts.

And some of them, such as my ballet recital and my kindergarten graduation, fell on the same evening! But these were at different times hence making it impossible for my parents to skip one, just making it necessary for them to CRAM IN MORE to a condensed and stressed amount of time (including dropping off the siblings with a babysitter since they are specifically banished from their brother or sister's party ... a suggestion ignored by 99 percent of most parents. Not mine.).

Wardrobe change! Here's Dad and Talia transforming me from
Dancer Extraordinaire to Graduate

I graduated! Me and friend Yacout
Now for some complicated Parent Math.

Problem: How many hours will you spend on your children's end-of-year events this month?

Solution: First, answer how many children you have. That is equal to how many school end-of-the-year parties you have. Then, consider how many extra curricular activities your kids attend (Ballet? Judo? Soccer? Special needs after-school program? Etc.?). Multiply that number by 1,000. Add in time shopping for the refreshments assigned to you for each party plus the end-of-year gifts for teachers, instructors, personal aides, afternoon staff and the one-on-one tutor that comes weekly to meet with your child.

Truth: Your entire month of June will consist of driving children to their parties. You will spend an amount equal to the sum of children you have birthed times events per child SQUARED and then times infinity. You will take an indefinite leave of absence (mentally if not actually) from your job in order to facilitate your children's schedules. You will spend (multiply by number of children ie TRIPLE in our case) your monthly average on gas or bus fare. You will be subjected to the torture methods used on prisoners of war employing shoddy sound systems and shrill and repetitive children's music. You will assuredly run out of storage on your "smartphone." And your sleep loss will experience subtraction and division in proportion to the multiplication and addition of events.

Suddenly your children have attained the status and schedule of POTUS and you have become their personal assistant.

But congratulations! Your children has graduated to, er, ... kindergarten! WOW!!!

Or in my case, and Lucas's, FIRST GRADE!

At this point, the parents don't care. They are just praying for it all to end so they can find a semblance of routine again ... until the homework begins!

So on this blog, despite the fact that is is written by and for babies, we salute the Parents of the World who have endured this last month and lived to tell the tale.

Here's me with my mortarboard... and my
beloved personal assistants, Merav and Yasmin 
Yasmin was with me every step of
the way this year

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A living stone of Jerusalem's Armenian Quarter

Kevork "George" Jansezian, aka Dede
Millions of tourists and pilgrims have flocked to Jerusalem's Old City for centuries to see all the historic, religiously significant and archaeologically dazzling sites it contains. This one tiny swath of earth has, and still draws, attention from all around the world.

And yet for me and my siblings, only two landmarks compelled us to flock to the Old City every weekend: Nene and Dede.

But now, one of those historic landmarks is no longer. After a three-week stay in a hospital Dede has died. He passed away in his sleep on Feb. 27, 2018.

Kevork “George” Jansezian — who was born in British Mandate Palestine, raised in Jordan and died in the State of Israel, all having never left the Old City — died at 82 years old. His parents escaped Turkey during the Armenian Genocide and sought refuge in Jerusalem.

Kevork spoke at least four languages including Armenian, Arabic, Turkish and English. He was orphaned at 5 years old, the youngest of three siblings all of whom preceded him in leaving Jerusalem and this world. After their parents died, the siblings were taken in by the Armenian Patriarch at the time and were raised in and by the close-knit community. Kevork is the only one who remained in the city till the end, while his siblings eventually moved to Dubai and Australia.

The orb of Kevork's existence encompassed a half-kilometer radius. He lived in the Old City, his home since birth, specifically the Armenian Quarter, the smallest of all sections in the Old City in both size and population. Governments came and went, wars raged, but Kevork remained, a living stone in the walls, a rock of the Armenian Quarter and in one of the two social clubs at the Armenian convent.

He was a man true to his word, never fake, extremely friendly and well liked. He was strong in character. Kevork was a photographer for most of his professional life. Later he created designs for ceramics, intricate works comprised of minuscule squares that made up Jerusalem’s walls and colorful floral patterns.

But, of course, his best legacy has to be his son, my dad, Tony.

Now this is truly amazing and rare and speaks of a life worthy of novels and film, but Dede would've been the last person to take note of any of this. Kevork was content with his own status quo and the occasional night out with the guys in Bethlehem.

And us, his grandchildren.

Like warriors of yore, we charged through Jaffa Gate every Saturday and made our way around to Zion Gate stopping just as we came to the height across the massive valley from the Mount of Olives. Right there is our Mecca - Nene and Dede's souvenir shop.

"Hokis," (my soul), Dede's eyes would light up as we rounded the bend and he would scoop us up for a big hug, defying his aching back. We would twirl around the ceramic Armenian pottery, the Hebron glass and other delicate items that children are prone to destroy. Then we would dart out of the shop threatening to jump in front of passing traffic as children are also wont to do. It's amazing Dede didn't die earlier of the heart attacks we caused.

This is our Jerusalem. This is our Old City. The ancient sites are to us as the Statue of Liberty is to mommy who grew up in New York: Taken For Granted.

We have more important things to attend to there. Grandparents.

Grandparents always trump yawning historic sites and churches. Nene and Dede would welcome us and then usher us to a feast prepared at their apartment, which faces the very mount on which they say Jesus will return. From there, he wept for Jerusalem.

Today, we weep for this city. Today one of its Living Stones will be buried on Mount Zion, a memorial to the dwindling but enduring Armenian community. Our beloved grandfather.

Dede and I celebrating Christmas 2012

Services will take place Wednesday, Feb. 28 at Saint James Cathedral in the Armenian convent at 4:00 followed by a procession to the Armenian cemetery outside Zion Gate and concluding with coffee at the club. 

Our last moments with Dede these past three weeks:

At Hadassah Ein Karem three weeks ago

No hospital bed will keep me from you!

A few more weeks and we would've run this hospital

Ushering Dede to an MRI

Passing time while waiting for the MRI

Dispensing drugs, just your every day child activity

Saying goodbye at the hospice Monday night