My cousins had a baby yesterday. Michael Patrick Monley! The addition of another Monley to the earth was a big deal in pockets of the west coast and Minnesota for sure, but who could have known that a house in Gyumri, Armenia would erupt in celebration.
After receiving a call from the new uncle discussing the details of the birth, I exited my bedroom to talk with my family over dinner. I truly didn’t think that they would be too interested in the new addition to the Monley clan half a world away, but as the conversation slowed and I, always feeling awkward in times of silence (even when I don’t really speak the language) realized that I could formulate a sentence describing my new relative, burst forth with it. As my mother (who speaks some English) reformulated my word order and translated from my Armenian to actual comprehensible Armenian the family understood and the table exploded in congratulations. Hugs were spread around and the liquor cabinet was cracked. This normal Tuesday night dinner turned into a celebration of Michael Patrick.
My new host family (in great contrast to my first) doesn’t drink. In fact, I’ve never seen any one of them so much as drain a full shot glass full of wine over the course of a party, but apparently this was different. As my host brother reached to the depths of the liquor cabinet he kept producing these amazingly old bottles of cognac. I’ve a bit of knowledge regarding alcohol costs. My time spent as a bartender at a fancy establishment made me aware of the basic going rate for a decent bottle of well aged cognac. Bearing this in mind I can’t even begin to imagine how valuable the bottle of 60 year old bottle of cognac was, let alone the 85 year old one, both from which we were partaking and comparing.
As the cognac continued to flow so did the toasts. Young Michael Patrick was celebrated in proper Armenian fashion. After a couple too many toasts we came to the conclusion that indeed he would make a fine Armenian!
For me this just served as not only a way to curb my loneliness at missing such a momentous family event in America, but also another example of how gracious and genuinely caring this culture is. I’m really quite lucky to have received a Peace Corps placement in a country with such wonderful people and tradition.