Tuesday, August 28, 2007

First Tooth Party

Today was the celebration of Manuk's first tooth. I was looking forward to this party as I had heard that on this occasion the baby (he's not even a year old yet) chooses his future profession. Curious about how this situation would play out I framed one of my favorite family photos as a gift and ran over to Aunt Liana's house.

When I arrived there were at least thirty people crouched around an empty blanket on the floor. They were laying out all kinds of items from scissors to pens, money to books. Each item represented a future profession (the scissors a barber, the pen a writer, etc...) They were short a cell phone so I offered mine and Manuk immediately began chewing on it with his one new tooth. I also thought it might be good to throw in my Armenian/English dictionary-after all, maybe he would become a translator.

After everyone arrived they sat Manuk down in the center of the blanket and covered his head with a lace table cloth. Much to my surprise, they began throwing cooked kidney beans, chickpeas and other forms of grains on his head from a bowl his mother provided. The kids in the front row and got very excited about this part of the ceremony. When the bowl was empty the veil was removed and everyone sat silently waiting for him to choose his item. More realistically they sat silently for about ten seconds--he must be quite a pensive child because he didn't choose right away. The crowd started to get impatient and bystanders began to shout things like, "Pick the money Manuk!" and "Push everything closer! There's no need for the things to be 10 km away!"

He rested his hand on my English/Armenian dictionary but it was the scissors that he eventually grabbed and immediately placed in his mouth (a hazard to say the least). It's settled then, a poor barber he'll become. I was delighted by the whole show.

Once that excitement it was over it was time to pop open the champagne and sit down to a table of cake, fruit, candy, popcorn and a similar bowl of cooked beans and grains. I was excited about the protien but it turned out everything was very salty (perhaps to balance all the sugar on the rest of the table). We ate and toasted then ate and toasted some more.

When it was time for my toast I congratulated his new tooth, wished it health (like everyone else before me had) and told his parents what a wonderful job they were doing caring for their children (Manuk is their fourth). I was hot and the video camera was right in my face. I was just about ready to clink glasses when Manuk's father exclaimed that he had a toast to make to me. He said that he was thankful I had come and asked me if I'd ever forget his family. I said that of course I would always remember them and everyone in Armenia. He asked me repetedly, then sang me a song and finally exclaimed that he wanted me to be Manuk's God mother. I was shocked.

At first I thought it was lighthearted joking-who would want to make the young American teacher their child's God mother? It's not an easy decision. I tried to laugh it off and told them I didn't even know where Manuk was. I hadn't even gotton to hold him all day. Out of nowhere he appeared on my lap and the father elaborated on his proposal: "Sarah, you will come back in two years or so and we'll have his baptism with you. You'll take him to America right?" I didn't really know what to say so Manuk and I just sat and played with a chocolate waffer they offered.

The party continued with plenty of singing and poetry reciting. It was a great time until about 30 minutes later when Manuk decided he needed to use the restroom in my lap. At that moment I promised myself I'd never whine about changing another diaper...he wasn't wearing one. No one saw the big deal, but after ten minutes I had decided it was time to go home and change.

As I walked home arm-in-arm with my host mom I wanted to clarify what had happened in the house. She informed me that I would need to go home and come back because I alone can not be a God mother. I must be married. She told me that I'll go to America, find a husband and then the two of us will come back and sponsor him at his baptism. I was amazed and honored by the situation and we laughed about the two year expectation he had established the whole way home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an intersting event. First with the choosing of professions and the request for you to become Manuck's godmother????. If the two years doesn't start until you come home next year then that at least gives you three years to find a husband and get married. That's not much time!
It's fun learning about the different cultural beliefs through your stories.
What do they do when the child loses their first tooth?