The lifeblood of the Armenian family: The Tatik

Tatik means grandma. Armenia has a lot of Tatiks, perhaps because the men smoke and drink themselves to an early death. They can be seen waddling around the streets occasionally, but most stick to the areas adjacent to their homes. How do you know you’ve seen a tatik? If the cankles and canter don’t give it away, the 5 layers of clothing, doorag, and specialty tatik socks will be your clues. Also, in order to be a tatik, you must be at least overweight. Obese is better, but overweight will do.

My first tatik wasn’t the garden variety tatik. She is Russian, and a little bit more with it than your average tatik. She has her own cell phone, uses Skype, and is generally a badass. No headdress either. I’m not here to talk about her, though. I’m here to talk about Tatik.

Tatik is the most interesting thing in our household. The way she saunters around the house is mesmerizing in and of itself. She has bad vision (not unlike myself), so you can often find her examining objects at point-blank range. Her cankles are bigger than my thighs. She has 4 or 5 teeth left, so meal time is always a symphony of smacks and slurps, especially when boiled chicken is involved. But my favorite part about her is what she says.

Her Armenian is laden with barbar so thick that on any given day I don’t understand a single word she says. She also can’t understand my crappy Armenian. This leaves us with a formidable communication gap. I don’t think she knows what my name is. She resorts to calling me “Keeny” or sometimes “Keen”, which is funny because keen is the word for woman. She is chock full of the Armenian flavoring expressions, of which I never quite know the meaning. Things like “vay”, “ba”, “uhhh”, and “ehh” are constantly coming out of her mouth.

The youngest son always lives with his mother in Armenian culture. So my host father, and his wife, and their kids all live with Tatik. The house is the one he grew up in (I’m assuming). As the tatik in the family, she is revered in some ways, but seemingly disrespected in others. The other brothers visit quite often. The first toast usually has something to do with Tatik. But she does a disproportionate amount of work around the house considering her age and health. And the dad and brother have no qualms about asking her to go get them water or an ashtray while they sit on their asses watching TV. Of course, it only seems disrespectful to me. To them, I guess it’s normal.

While I can’t really communicate with her, Tatik is probably my favorite family member. She leaves me alone, makes dinner every day, and gives me internal comedic relief. She even asked me about my apartment search one day, in a genuine way. The best moment with Tatik was probably when my host dad was drunk and bugging me about leaving. She was in the background behind him with wide eyes, flicking her throat with her index finger (the national sign language for drinking).

She may look 90 even though she’s only 74, and she might make me laugh in ways that I shouldn’t be laughing, but deep down I respect what was probably a very difficult life. She has lived through communism, struggle for independence, and numerous other difficulties, yet she continues to soldier on. To Tatik!


5 Responses to “Tatik”

  1. Gail the Mom Says:

    When you have children can they call me Tatik? And since you’re the youngest and only son, I’m looking forward to living with you and your family one day. 🙂

  2. icenugget Says:

    So you want to be a tatik? I better pick up a headdress and some knee high socks while I’m here. 😀

  3. Peter Says:

    Better start eating Mrs. C! 😉 😉

    I remember seeing plenty of “nonna” in Italy. They are the same everywhere! You NAILED it with the ‘waddle’, the babushka, and so on.

    PS – is that where Don Vito went?

  4. icenugget Says:

    I’m glad it’s not just an Armenian thing, Peter! I’m pretty sure Don Vito is a tatik reincarnated.

  5. Emma J. Says:

    LOVE IT! I shall dedicate a blog post to West African grannies soon 😉

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