The Tuna clan is good friends with a large extended family of Armenian/Russian heritage. Although they arrived in the United States with very few material possessions, they brought with them a rich heritage of traditions that we were privileged to learn and share over many years. Celebrations were always large family events with enormous amounts of traditional home cooked food. Everyone gathered to celebrate -- meaning rooms were cleared out so long tables could be set up to accommodate all the guests. We all ate together, drank together and offered many, many toasts.
Our family was a part of countless celebrations: Birthdays Anniversaries, New Years and New Babies. You name it, we were there. We learned to love their customs as well as their food. Nothing was better than "Mama" bread, and the Shashlik and stuffed grape leaves were fantastic. We also learned early on the importance of pacing oneself. Each place setting included two glasses and a shot glass for toasts. I quickly discovered that "more bread and water to combat the Vodka shots makes me a more functionable Tuna the next day" rule.
An important part of any celebration consisted of a long series of toasts. Since our Russian was non-existent, our hosts would translate for us. There was a definite order to these toasts, and I was surprised to learn that in the case of a birthday, the honoree wasn't at the top of the list. Instead, parents came first, then grandparents, then the guest of honor, then friends, and then honored guests. By the end it would seem as if we were toasting shoelaces and baklava as I dbrunkenly turned "more bread and water" into "more Vodka and Champagne, please!" Celebrating was serious business, but always delicious and a great deal of fun. No matter how full and exhausted we were at the end of the day, we were always honored and touched to be a part of the celebration.
Today is a milestone. TinyTuna isn't so tiny anymore. Although I tease her by saying that technically the party doesn't start until 10:04pm, today she is officially ten years old. Like so many things in this life, this time seems to have passed in a blink of an eye, and yet it is difficult somehow to remember life without her in it.
On her special day, I want to offer toasts to so many people, but like so many Oscar acceptance speeches, you'd be asking, "who?" through most of it as the orchestra plays "let's move it along, shall we" music. Ultimately, what I'd like to say is that TinyTuna has grown into an amazing young lady. She is smart, funny, talented, and unbelievably kind-hearted for her age. To the countless number of family and friends far and near who have and continue to touch our lives, to you I say thank you. She is who she is today because of your presence and influence in her life. Our little corner of the world has been so incredibly blessed, and to each and every one of you I offer you my thanks for making her life so special.
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