Here's a photo of my dad, my sister Anne, me, and my mom in Central Park. My parents live in Troy, a beautiful city in upstate New York, but they come to visit my sister and me in New York City occasionally.
September 22 is my mom's birthday. Unfortunately, I've never been very good about getting birthday presents for my mom in advance. So, the day has arrived and I still haven't ordered a gift for her. But she often tells me that she'd prefer that I write something for her; she'd appreciate that more than another sort of gift. So, on the blog today: meet my mom.
On the first day of school, about half of you eighth graders said that your mother was a great leader to you. I agree with all of you! My mom has been leading and guiding me since before I was born. She has been a great role model for me: since I was six, she has been an elementary school librarian, and her students are very lucky to have such a hard-working and creative person in the library. More importantly, she's been a loving, loyal, faithful mother to my sister and me--and she's been a great wife to my dad, and a great daughter to my grandma. She loves me and cares about me. She'd do anything for me. And I love her too.
But what makes her such a loving mother? When I was starting to teach, I had a very difficult time and she supported me through it. When I was having trouble in college, she always encouraged me and sent me resources to help me write papers and study more effectively. When I was a self-conscious, anxious, shy middle school student, she helped me to deal with the stress.
But let me take you back even further, to a conversation that she may not even remember, that happened when I was nine. I was in fourth grade, and my sister Anne was in first grade. We were both starting at a new school, and my sister was starting to make friends in her class. One night at dinner, she said that one of her friends was Turkish. In response, I made a nasty face and a disrespectful comment.
Here's why I was disrespectful: I am Armenian and, at age nine, I was starting to learn the history of my family and my people. My great-grandparents came to America around 1915 because of the Armenian Massacres. During the Massacres, Armenians who lived in Turkey were being killed in huge numbers by the Turks and their government. My great-grandmother's first husband and children were lost or killed at the hands of the Turks.
Why did the Turks want to kill the Armenians? Short answer: there's no good reason. But here are some ideas: the Turks were worried that the Armenians would threaten their power during World War I. They also hated Armenians because Armenians are different--Armenians are usually Christians; Turks are usually Muslims. If you wanted to be very simplistic, you could just say that Muslims killed my family. But that would be way too simplistic, as we know. Just because some people who call themselves Muslims were violent doesn't mean that all Muslims are responsible for it.
Back to the scene at my dinner table in 1993: When my sister mentioned that she had a Turkish friend, I made a nasty face and a snide comment. Instantly, my mom and dad raised their voices and said, "Don't you ever do that. The Armenian Massacres were a problem between your great-grandparents and Anne's friend's great-grandparents. We don't have any reason to have problems with the Turks today. So don't act like you do."
My mom and dad loved me enough to correct me when I was doing something wrong. I could have gone down a bad, hateful path if they hadn't said anything to me. But, instead, I learned from them and became a better person.
I'm so thankful for my mom. I know she'll be reading the blog. If you want to leave her a "Happy Birthday" note, I'm sure she'd appreciate it. You can call her "Mrs. Toomajian." And if you'd like to share something about a lesson your mother has taught you, please feel free to do that here too.