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Front Door Open

(by Andrea Cherkerzian Dennigan)

Legend has it in our family that the first time my mom, Mary Ellen, went to meet her future mother-in-law, my Armenian grandmother Rose wouldn’t even turn around from washing the dishes. When it was time to sit down for the pot roast dinner, Rose wouldn’t look in my mom’s direction. Bringing an ordad—a non-Armenian—into the Cherkerzian family was a big deal, and Rose made sure it was known loud and clear. She had three sons, and each one was to bring home an Armenian girl who could cook Armenian food and fit into the Armenian circle. No exceptions.

My father would bring flowers and chocolates to the house over the next year, and my gentle Papa, with his soft demeanor and cigar in mouth, would shake his head at my father and ask, “Why did you do this?” My dad persisted. He was in love with my mom, who was set up as his first patient when he opened his dental practice. Even at my parents’ wedding in Syracuse, New York, where my mom grew up, they practically had to chain Rose to the car seat to get her to attend the festivities. But one day, Nana Rose left the front door open, and my dad knew that things would be better from that day on.