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Margaret Suzanne Ayoub

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Armenian Oral History Project
Interview with: Margaret Suzanne Ayoub
Interviewed by: Gregory Smaldone
Transcriber: Cordelia Jannetty
Date of interview: 29 March 2016
Interview Settings: Phone interview
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(Start of Interview)

0:01
GS: This is Gregory Smaldone working on the Armenian Oral History Project conducted with the Special Collections Library, at Binghamton University. Can you please state your name, your birthday and a little bit about yourself for the record?

0:16
MA: Margaret Suzanne Ayoub. 5/12/1945. And I am sorry did not hear your last request.

0:24
GS: Well, we just going to start your childhood so we will start with your parents. Can you tell me a little bit about them? Were they immigrants to this country? Were they Armenian etc.?

0:34
MA: Okay, both my parents are Armenian. Their Parents were born in Armenia or Constantinople I am not quite sure but my father in fact, if I can expand a little bit, my dad I just found out came to America from Turkey as a nine month old child. I just discovered that his mother, my grandmother, was raped by a Turk. So, she brought him as an infant over to America. My mother was born here, but and I just found out that I have a little bit of Turkish in me unbeknownst. So, does that answer your questions?

1:22
GS: Yes, so both your parents were Armenians?

1:26
MA: Yes.

1:27
GS: And they ̶ but it was their parents who were immigrants to this country?

1:31`
MA: Yes.

1:32
GS: Okay, to America. Where did you grow up?

1:36
MA: I grew up in Bloomfield, New Jersey. I was born in South Dakota when my father was being discharged from the army. I was born there in 1945 in Rapid City. And then, my mother brought me back to East Orange New Jersey to her parents and then my dad followed. Yeah, and I was, most of my childhood was in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

2:01
GS: Okay, did you have any siblings growing up?

2:04
MA: My sister who is three and a half years younger than me.

2:09
GS: Okay, what was the highest level of Education your parents achieved?

2:13
MA: My mother completed high school. My father I think Grammar School and perhaps middle school but he never graduated high school.

2:25
GS: And what were there occupations?

2:27
MA: My mother was a waitress and she also worked for an insurance company. My dad believed or not started in Brooklyn as a hairdresser, and went from there to school custodian for many years.

2:45
GS: Okay. What was, did your parents speak Armenian?

2:51
MA: Yes, they both spoke Armenian.

2:53
GS: Okay, and did they teach you and your sister Armenian growing up?

2:57
MA: We ̶ They did not officially teach us. We did go to Armenian school. They spoke it to my grandparents who lived nearby. So, we assimilated many of the Armenian phrases and language, overhearing them speak. But we did understand it and we did speak some of it. I to this day I understand it but I do not speak Armenian.

3:20
GS: Now, you said you attended Armenian school with your sister, how long did you attend? Was it a weekend thing or was it regular grammar school?

3:29
MA: It was some weekend thing. It was, I believe if I recall, it was after church where we attended in Irvington, New Jersey, We had, after services, we had several classes, and sometimes on Saturdays.

3:45
GS: Okay, did you attend Sunday school or Bible school as a child?

3:51
MA: Yes, we both attended Sunday school and then as I am matured in high school, I taught Sunday school there at the Armenian Church.

4:01
GS: Okay, what was, can you describe your experience going to Church and to Bible School as a child?

4:07
MA: You know you are breaking up a little bit, could you repeat that again?

4:12
GS: Yeah, can you talk a little bit about your experience going to Bible school as a child?

4:18
MA: We, I loved Sunday school. I loved learning about the church; I loved learning about the history. Um, dear mom pray was our um, priest at the time and he was very good educator. And then when as I learned I was able to share that information and to the children that I subsequently had in my class. And it was a nice group of children and it served as a community for us. We were about fifteen minutes away from the Church and my grandparents would take us and my mother and father would take us to church and we would stay, sometimes we would go on Saturdays for classes for the as I had said the Armenian school classes. So it was a wonderful experience we would put on place, we put on the Christmas ̶

5:10
GS: Pageant?

5:11
MA: Yes, the pageant, thank you. And I remember being Mary at one of them, it was a wonderful opportunity for us.

5:19
GS: Was there a large Armenian community that you were part of growing up?

5:24
MA: You know it is hard to say what the size of it was but it was a good size community. The women would cook wonderful Armenian food for our banquets. We ̶ They have since moved to Livingston, New Jersey have brought in more Armenians so I believe it is a bigger community now. We were in a small area, the small church but it was a wonderful experience. My grandfather served on the altar. So he was a deacon sang all of the hymns and I sang in the choir at the church besides teaching Sunday school. So it was a beautiful part of my life.

6:03
GS: Was your kinship group mainly Armenians growing up or you did you also have non-Armenians?

6:11
MA: Mostly non-Armenian friends. But I do recall, you know what, we did as I matured we belonged to the ACYOA, and we would take trips with them. Now I remember we would go to the shore, we would go Belmar to the Vann Hotel and have fun, dances and I do recall nice group activities with the Armenian Church, but I do also have friends from the high school, non-Armenians.

6:41
GS: What were your parents’ role in the household as you growing up?

6:45
MA: Parent’s rules?

6:48
GS: Your ̶ Their roles? Was your father the breadwinner, was your mother the breadwinner? Did they split household responsibilities?

6:56
MA: I am a little hard hearing you Greg but you are asking me what their roles, did you say breadwinner?

7:03
GS: Their roles, like their parental roles?

7:06
MA: Oh, their roles, okay. My dad was the head of the household and mom would have his dinner ready when walked in at 5 o’clock. [laughs] And if it was not ready, she would hear about it. And she waited on him hand and foot. That was the rule and he called the shots.

7:24
GS: Where did your father work?

7:28
MA: He worked in Bloomfield school system.

7:31
GS: What did he do?

7:33
MA: He was the school custodian for several of the schools, middle school and at the end of his career he was a custodian in an elementary school.

7:44
GS: What kinds of traditions– Armenian traditions– did your parents try and maintain in your household growing up?

7:52
MA: Many of the traditions were set by my grandparents on my mother’s side. They lived several blocks up from our home. And many of the traditions were again surrounding what they would set up for us for example, Shish Kebab in the backyard. My grandfather would invite many of the relatives from New York over and we would all meet over there and have wonderful Armenian meals. My grandparents brought in the priest from the Church after Sunday and after the services and my grandmother would cook for them and I would dance for them. They put my mother would play the piano, Armenian music and I would dance for them. I am digressing but ̶

8:49
GS: Please do, please do.

8:50
MA: And you know my father’s mother lived in Brooklyn, we would travel for many of the holidays and she would cook wonderful Armenian food and there was an Armenian area, I do not want to say ghetto but there was an Armenian block and many of us would gather in one of the dining rooms and crack the eggs at Easter and eat all the wonderful Armenian food together and sing songs and they would also sit and play cards for hours. So that was some of the traditions.

9:22
GS: Okay, where was the main social space for your Armenian Community when you were growing up?

9:29
MA: The social space?

9:31
GS: Yes.

9:33
MA: Basically I would say the church and I would also say again my grandparents’ house and our house. We would invite many of the Armenian relative over–many, many of them. And as I said when the times at the shore.

9:56
GS: What would you identify yourself as?

10:01
MA: What do I identify myself as?

10:03
GS: Yes.

10:03
MA: If someone asked my nationality?

10:06
GS: Yes?

10:06
MA: As an Armenian.

10:07
GS: You would say you are Armenian?

10:09
MA: Yes.

10:11
GS: Okay. How important is it for you, was it for you when you were raising your own children to–

10:18
MA: Greg I could not hear you honey–

10:20
GS: Okay, so can you tell us a little bit about your own family as an adult, when you married, did you have children?

10:27
MA: Yes. I married someone who is not ̶ Armenian but his Parents are from Palestine and Jordan. And many of the customs are the same, the food is the same, the food is very important. Food is very similar. And I am very– I have to tell you again if I can go off on a tangent, I have not been attending Armenian Church because where I live in New Hope, Pennsylvania. There is no church nearby that is Armenian. And I met someone I did not know there are Armenians in next town over and I ran into somebody who is an Armenian and she encouraged me to go to the Armenian Church which is about an hour away. And as of late the last few months now that my children are grown and I have more time, we have been, Ray’s been very, my husband has been very willing to attend the church. We have been going to Armenian Church maybe every other, every couple of weeks, we would go down, and I will tell you that being back in the Armenian community has been just so rewarding. And I have even run into people, Armenian’s that I have known through other people and it has been a wonderful reconnection for me, and Ray’s very willing to go with me. So it has been just been so wonderful.

11:55
GS: Okay, do you have any children?

11:56
MA: I have two girls.

11:59
GS: Can you tell me a little bit about them?

12:02
MA: My oldest daughter is Melony. She is, do you want ages?

12:07
GS: Yes, please.

12:08
MA: Melony is, let us see, about forty-three, and she is graduate of Georgetown, and she is working for school district nearby. She has two children. She did not marry an Armenian but he is a wonderful guy and loves her food. Stephany is forty. She is a teacher and she teaches math. She has two little boys. And her husband is not Armenian but once again we are very fortunate to have two wonderful son-in-law.

12:47
GS: Okay. What was the highest level of education that you achieved? What was your occupation?

12:54
MA: I have a Master’s degree and I taught for thirty years at elementary school.

13:00
GS: As a parent how important was it for you that your children speak Armenian?

13:08
MA: Unfortunately, because I am not speaking fluent Armenian, we did not speak it in my house here. I just want them to appreciate their heritage, not necessarily have to speak Armenian because that is not, right now that is not in the forefront. But they are very well aware of their heritage. They appreciate it. My parents, they love them dearly. And I just want them to understand, they are very aware of the genocide. They know how important some of the traditions that we do tend to follow how important they are to us. And I want my grandchildren to know that they have Armenian in them. And we talk about it. I tried to tell them the older ones about the genocide and how important and how lucky they are to be Armenian.

14:05
GS: Um, what were some traditions you tried to maintain for your children growing up in order to give them their own Armenian heritage?

14:15
MA: I could not ̶ Some of the traditions, I am sorry I could not ̶

14:18
GS: Yes, yes. Some Armenian traditions you tried to maintain in your household for your children?

14:24
MA: Um, well, I hate to keep saying this, but the food is important. Unfortunately I do not cook as much Armenian but I try to make some of the food and now that we started to go back to church, the Armenian Church we can buy Armenian food. And we bring it home and heat it up here. The grandchildren love the çörek and the string cheese that they make it at the church and little kebab. So, food is important. Um, basically just talking about their tradition and stories, relating stories to them about our things that we did as children with my parents and my grandparents it is just to keep that memory alive.

15:12
GS: Did your children attend weekend Bible school or did they grow up within the Armenian Church?

15:18
MA: No, they did not. They were both Baptized in the Armenian Church but because of proximity of the churches we have moved back and forth from Jersey to Pennsylvania and unfortunately not near the Armenian churches. So they were brought up. They went to Bible school, Sunday school at the Methodist churches because they were more local to us.

15:41
GS: Okay. Was there an Armenian community in which your children able to participate growing up?

15:47
MA: No not really, unfortunately they could not. We were too isolated.

15:53
GS: Do you see yourself as a part of a larger Armenian Diaspora?

16:05
MA: Um, um help me to understand what you want me–

16:09
GS: Okay, do you– so, there is a large population of Armenians living in America it is called the Armenian diaspora. How do you see that entity as a part of a collective whole? Do you think it is a little pockets of individual communities or do you think it is one, one larger community of Armenians living abroad?

16:31
MA: I just as I said where I have been, it has been very self-isolated but since we started back to the Armenian Church, um it has been, I believe that is the community that we belong to now and I did not know the next town over I found out through this women that I met at a Presbyterian group choir who is Armenian that she has relatives that I have become friendly with in the next town over. So, um, and they also are attending the Armenian Church towards Philadelphia. So this is a nice size community. I am amazed at the amount of Armenians that attend there. I have been really isolated as I said. I do not know if I am answering you for what you want.

17:22
GS: No, this is perfect, this is perfect, thank you. How do you view– do you participate in any activities or are you aware of any larger Armenian organizations in America?

17:36
MA: No, we have really been divorced as I said from the Armenian community and just now starting to be more assimilated. We just were talking about joining the church and Ray and I, my husband and I have been discussing that. So I think we are going to become dues-paying members and we have just been enamored by the priest there. He is a young fellow and very interesting to talk to, and I think that we are going to become part of that community, so.

18:11
GS: Okay, how is that made you feel over the course of your life being separated from Armenian communities by virtue where you lived?

18:22
MA: You know, because I was so involved with the children growing up, that and working full time that has made me comfortable in my American community. And you know, you make relationships and camaraderie with the people that you work with and the children through their groups and community affiliations. So we have been very comfortable but now that we are getting back assimilated into the Armenian community of the church and as I said nearby town folks, it has just made me feel so much more warmer towards my tradition, my heritage and I am loving it, I am loving it, I am, it is like I am being like a prodigal child being brought back into the fold.

19:18
GS: Okay, I am going a little back how you raised your children, what would you say where the roles you and your husband had while your children were growing up? And How does that compared to your parents roles in the household were?

19:36
MA: You are asking me about my, our bringing up our children compared to how was I brought up?

19:43
GS: Well not so much how they are brought up, but how you and your husband, you know, delegated the responsibilities of being parents versus the relationship that your parents have? For example you told me that your father was the breadwinner and your mother was supposed to have the household ready for him as he wanted.

20:00
MA: Right. Well I really emphasize that it is team work, and I think the roles, somewhat have grew up have changed and we have shared that responsibility. My husband and I have shared the responsibility, because you need when both are working full-time. Everyone has to pitch in. So yes it is different from when I was brought up and yeah we both share the responsibilities, and share the responsibilities at the children. Ray travelled a lot when he was working. We are both retired now. So, a lot of those responsibilities were on my shoulders but when he was home we both participated in the kids’ activities and the household.

20:45
GS: Do you feel that your children are trying to maintain their own Armenian identity and pass it on to their own children or that is something that you are more trying to pass it on to your grandchildren?

21:00
MA: I am sorry could you repeat that?

21:01
GS: Sure. Do you, how important is an Armenian identity to your children? And do you see more is your own role to pass on that heritage to your grandchildren, to their children or is that something that they are doing on their own?

21:18
MA: Okay, I think that they have, they are more Americanized. When I go to the Church I can see some of the offspring of people my age are very much Armenianized but because of our not being in the community of the Armenians as the children were growing up, they are more Americanized and anything that Armenian will come from me to my grandchildren and to my children. When they were little, my parents tried very hard to you know show them the Armenian way, but and I am trying to continue that but not to the degree that I see down at the church.

22:02
GS: Okay, well thank you very much for your time. We very much appreciate your contribution.

22:07
MA: That is it?

22:08
GS: That is it.

22:10
MA: [laughs], Gregory! Gregory I thought you are going to ask me the dates of the genocide, and ̶
(End of Interview)

Date of Interview

3/29/2016

Interviewer

Gregory Smaldone

Interviewee

Margaret Suzanne Ayoub

Biographical Text

Margaret is a mother of two daughters. She has a master's degree and taught for thirty years at an elementary school. Currently, Margaret and her husband, Ray, are worlking to become more involved in the Armenian Church.

Duration

22:15

Language

English

Digital Publisher

Binghamton University

Interview Format

Audio

Rights Statement

This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as Armenian Oral History Project, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries for more information.

Keywords

gender roles; Armenia; traditions; food; church; identity; Bible Study; diaspora; ACYOA

Files

Citation

“Margaret Suzanne Ayoub,” Digital Collections, accessed February 7, 2023, https://omeka.binghamton.edu/omeka/items/show/617.