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Intersections: Thoughts of regret, watermelon, coffee

March 21, 2013|By Liana Aghajanian

At some point during my reporting adventures in Armenia, I found myself in a Yezidi Kurdish village thanks to a good friend, also a journalist, who had worked in the region for years.

After a long drive outside the capital, we arrived in Alagyaz. Seeing unfamiliar faces wandering the streets, a woman came out of her house to investigate.

“Come in, come in,” she said with a smile.

She looked like my grandmother — same white-copper hair, same knitted socks.

“Come have some watermelon and coffee with me.”

She insisted, but we looked at each other and politely declined, not wanting to cause her trouble. The roads weren't only empty, they were post-Soviet barren. We walked, spoke to several people, had Armenian coffee, met grandkids and daughters and nieces, and then we got hungry.

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We bought stale imitation Cheetos from the only corner store in town. The bag popped and so did the clouds. Shivering, we ran from under the trees, up toward the houses, in search of our watermelon woman.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Silence.

She had departed. I stood in front of her door, a notebook over my head, with regret and water-logged shoes.

It is a short memory, filled with much sweetness. I can't explain why, but it was the first thing I remembered when Nowruz, the Persian New Year, arrived this year. A holiday rooted in Zoroastrian origin, Nowruz marks the beginning of spring and is celebrated not only in Iran, but Azerbaijan, India, and across Kurdistan and Central Asia.

Nowruz, literally meaning “New Day,” is my favorite holiday, partly because of its beautiful message and also because of its deeply ritualistic characteristics.

There's the family visitations, gift-giving, the jumping over fire as a way of cleansing any negativity in your life order to make room for the good — and the Haft-Sin, a table setting with symbolic items meant to represent rebirth, love, health, patience and more.

There is so much to do, to prepare for; and none of it feels contrived, concocted as a marketing ploy to sell aisles upon aisles of candy or extravagant gifts.

It is just a simple gesture, a time to reflect and hope for the best, and a good excuse to build a fire in your backyard to jump over.

A few hours before Nowruz began this year, I went to visit my grandma, who was recovering from an illness that temporarily landed her in the hospital.

“Can you believe my luck?” she said from her bed.

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