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my father and i are sitting on the floor in their den. he’s just had our family’s old tape recordings copied to CD and we’re listening to crackling sounds, faded like old photographs, on his stereo.
there’s a very small, animated voice telling a detailed story about santa claus—or more literally, father christmas—in armenian. my father tells me that this voice is me, at around four years old. my mother swears i was really two and a half—but despite my mother’s sweet conviction that i was a baby genius in cloth diapers—i think i was probably fourish. and rather impish. i don’t remember this conversation:
“and what will father christmas bring you?” it is my father’s voice.
“oh, he will bring me a beutagas.” i—as a child—answer quickly with confidence.
“a beutagas? but you already had one and you broke it, my girl!” he answers, laughing. like he’s playing along. his voice sounds younger and softer. i can tell he loves this child.
“oh, but this is what i want. a beutagas. and this is what father christmas will bring me.”
how is it possible that i once used this word “beutagas” quite freely, but no longer know what it means? is it an armenian word? or arabic or french or turkish? (i made the realization as a grown-up that my simple, childhood “armenian” was tangled with other languages.) but somewhere in my brain, that word existed, and i didn’t even know it until just now.
“and what will father christmas bring your brother?”
“he will bring him a, you know, one of those books with, you know, those pictures?” i think i hear myself gesturing with my hands as i’m speaking.
“ah, yes. and what will father christmas bring me?” my father asks.
“he will bring you something very big. big like you.”
“but maybe he won’t like my big beard and not bring me anything.”
“your big beard? no, of course he will bring you something. and he will bring it here when you are at work. and he will put it next to your shoes.”
“but won’t i be wearing my shoes when i am at work?” my father was always the logician…
it goes on and on. and i’m wondering. who is this confident, talkative child, and where did she go?
(oh, and i found out, beutagas is an oven. that’s what i wanted for christmas as a four year old. an oven.)