A was born in Azerbaijan in 1985. Now, I know very little about this country. Or that entire area of the world, to be honest. But it's somewhere in the vicinity of Russia and Armenia...and at that time was a part of the Soviet Union.
Little Bebe A
A grew up speaking Russian and Armenian, and he is still conversationally fluent in Russian...somehow the Armenian language slipped right out of his brain. But I am super excited because this means I will have bilingual babies! The majority of the time his entire family speaks Russian (as I sit there mesmerized, catching a random word here or there), and we've both agreed we want our kids to learn both languages from day one.
A's family moved to America in the summer of 1992, not long after the dissolution of the Soviet Union when things got a little crazy. From what I understand, the area they lived in was predominately Muslim, and for some reason they were running all of the Christians out. In fact, a few days after they left for America, his family found out their home had been set on fire. They actually moved here as refugees, sponsored by a church in Oklahoma. They picked up and left everything they owned, every person they knew, and moved to a foreign country where none of them spoke the language.
Little A started first grade not knowing a lick of English. He says one of his earliest memories is crying in class on his first day, confused and not understanding anything that was happening. Break my heart why don't you! But luckily, the social butterfly has always been alive and well within him, and it didn't take long for him to pick up the language and make lots of friends.
It wasn't as easy for his parents. Imagine having to start your life over from square one, learn a new language, and somehow support a family. They had a lot of success before they moved here...I can't imagine losing it all. But somehow they turned it all around, and every single one of them (his parents, his brother, and his sister) have been very successful here.
Naturally, A grew up in a very traditionally Armenian environment. He was completely immersed in that culture, other than when he was at work or school. A year out of high school he decided community college wasn't the route he wanted to take, and he enrolled at Oklahoma State University on a whim. Imagine the culture shock that he had going into a fraternity house with a bunch of crazy college guys...yikes. But, as always, he jumped right in and didn't miss a beat. By the time I met him just a few years later he was as Americanized as it gets. (I've actually heard his dad say this with a bit of disgust, "Oh, you're a real American boy now!")
Early College A. Love it.
I love nothing more than sitting down with his sweet little mom, or his sister or sister in law, and asking questions about their life. I'm completely fascinated. I discover so many little gems that I'm so incredibly glad I'm nosy enough to ask about. They have lived amazing lives, and I want to know all about it!
I remember once, right before we got married, his dad told me I won the lottery because I was marrying an Armenian guy. They have SO much pride in their culture, and I think that's such a beautiful thing. His dad has also asked me where I'm from. When I answered Oklahoma, he said, no, where are you from? Umm...America? Nope. I had to dig back and tell him....Germany? I think? I'm a lot German and some French and...umm....yeah. He wasn't very satisfied with that answer.
Even though it's been a bit of a challenge merging our two very different cultures, I am so glad. I feel blessed to be a part of his wonderful family, and to be a part of something as crazy and wild and beautiful as the Armenian culture.
More than anything, I'm just incredibly proud of the man that A has become. He was faced with hardships that a lot of people don't have to deal with. He put himself through school 100%. He worked at UPS and had another job at our campus fitness center, all while going to classes and keeping his grades up. Now, he is the hardest worker that I know, determined to do something incredible with his life. And I have no doubt that he will. I'm proud to call him mine, that crazy little Armenian.