The 79th Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Olympic Games will take place in Boston this coming Labor Day Weekend. In the great history of the Armenian people, 79 years is not a long time. It is a drop in the bucket. But, in the history of Armenians in the United States, this wonderful land, this melting pot, this place where freedom and assimilation go hand in hand, 79 years is a long time and something to be celebrated. Given how important this event has been for many of us, we all have special memories. Perhaps it is time to share these memories.
What is your favorite Olympics memory? When did you first attend the AYF Olympics? Did you make lifelong friends there? Did you meet the love of your life? What was your most crowning athletic achievement? Which Olympic Ball was your favorite? Which host city did you love?
For four generations, maybe five depending on how we count generations, we have packed up our bags and trekked to Boston, New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, Providence, Hartford, New Jersey, Milwaukee, and others to enjoy a weekend of being Armenian, to see old friends, to watch the youth compete, and, oh yes, to party. It is exciting to get there and renew old acquaintances, to catch up with friends, and to make new friends. It is also exhausting. The hours are long and you will leave much more tired than you arrived. Yet, we continue to go. Why? Because it is a very Armenian thing to do, an Armenian-American tradition. It is a way to feel Armenian for a whole weekend.
My parents met at Olympics. I went to my first (that I can remember) in New York in 1959. I went with my grandparents. We drove from Watertown to New York. We took our son Aram to his first Olympics when he was just three months old. We drove from Detroit to Boston. From 1969 until now, we have missed just two Olympics weekends, when the games were in Los Angeles in the early 1970’s, and in 1985 when our daughter Armene was about to be born. We took Armene to her first Olympics the following year.
We have seen old friends pass on. We have seen toddlers grow into adults, who now bring their own children to their first Olympics weekend.
I love to read about the games in the Armenian Weekly’s special issue on the Olympics. Thank you, Tom Vartabedian. Occasionally, I write a piece for the issue and as often as not I like the personal stories, and the reflections on the weekend. I loved the old column “Angel Over the Olympics,” in which Angel Perithian from Providence would simply name as many people as possible in her article. I have written a few pieces in my own style but certainly under the influence and style of her storied articles.
I want to do something proactive this year, as uncharacteristic as that is for me. I want to gather stories from anyone and everyone, people I know, and hopefully people I do not know. Send me your stories and memories. Simply answer either of the following questions: What is your favorite or first Olympics memory? Include the year and location if you can. Let me know if it is okay to use your name, or if you would prefer anonymity. Make your memory even more special and include a photo. If you would rather dictate your story to me, I am happy to do that. E-mail me your input at email@example.com.