BY CATHERINE YESAYAN
As I drove down Glendale Avenue just south of Glenoaks last weekend, I noticed small flags on the front lawns of the residential properties on the west side of the street. When I paid closer attention I realized, they had been placed by a local real estate agent for her own promotion. Nevertheless, the flags created a sense of solidarity and it was quite patriotic and inspiring.
The billowing flags continued along the next few streets: Portola, Cordova and Coronado, a neighborhood consisting of smaller homes built in the 1920s and one of the prettiest pockets of Glendale. The houses with their manicured lawns and mature landscapes revived in me an appreciation of my hometown. It provided me with a few moments to reflect on what America is all about, and how we Armenians have come to Glendale from so many different parts of the world, to enjoy the freedom and the basic rights that 235 years ago the founding fathers aspired to give us.
The first year my family arrived in America I didn’t have a patriotic drive to celebrate the Independence Day. I was just interested in watching the fireworks. That was 1979: we had left Iran because of the Islamic Revolution and had settled in Glendale, California. We learned from a friend that Glendale had no display of fireworks for the Fourth of July celebration, but if we drove to Burbank we could watch a show there.
Although I was very pregnant with my second child – the baby was due in less than two weeks – I pleaded to my husband to take us there to watch the show of lights. My husband who dreads driving to uncertain places and hates finding parking, and generally he is not a happy camper, he agreed to drive to Burbank so we could watch the pyrotechnics.
As we arrived in Burbank and found a parking spot, we joined the crowd there for the same purpose. Burbank was not a familiar city to me then. I cannot recall on which street we gathered and sat along both sides of the curbs to watch the fireworks.
Before that day, my only experience was watching fireworks on our roof-top terrace during the celebration of the Shah’s birthday in Tehran. Our home was about a mile or two away from Amjadieh, the sports complex where the festivities were held.
As fireworks exploded and the sky over Burbank lit up, I didn’t feel or see anything extraordinary compared to the fireworks I remembered in Iran. I haven’t still figured out if the show in Tehran was really out of the ordinary or if it was just me experiencing it as so majestic. Each year, they seemed to become more spectacular. I remember the colorful globes cascading down seemed like the size of 7 or 8-inch balls. We watched those birthday fireworks from our terrace until we moved to another address in the late 1960s. From our new home on the outskirts of Tehran we no longer could watch the Shah’s birthday festivities.
In September of 1986, my husband and I became citizens of the United States. Well before then, the spirit of loyalty and patriotism to the USA was growing in our hearts and American values were becoming dear to us. I love the 4th of July celebration and have seldom missed watching fireworks. This past 4th of July, 2011, we chose to watch the pyrotechnics at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. We were among the estimated 40,000 picnicking on the grounds of the golf course next to the Rose Bowl to honor America’s 235th birthday.
Although we could not hear the music played at the Rose Bowl, we just imagined that it included patriotic marches and songs, which are very dear to me. All to often when I stand abreast with a crowd to sing America the Beautiful I feel the goose bumps raised on my skin.
Today I am proud to be an American and to live in this nation of immigrants. I am especially happy to have adopted Glendale as our hometown, where we Armenians are embraced by the city, and there are so many opportunities and privileges available to us. In my upcoming columns in this paper, I hope to feature different segments of Armenian life in Southern California, mainly in Glendale. Please stay tuned.
Catherine Yesayan is a contributor to Asbarez. You may reach her at [email protected] or read her stories on her blog.