When I was a child back in Anjar, Lebanon, my grandmother, Mrs. Agnes Janbazian, used to own a bakery in the village. Inside the bakery, she had a brick oven that was as big as an average-size room, where she used to bake big loaves of bread by the dozens. The demand for her delicious bread was always high, as all the kids from my school, including myself, used to rush to her bakery to buy her warm, freshly baked bread on our lunch breaks.
During the cold, harsh winters of Anjar, her soft, fresh-baked bread was the favorite thing all the villagers used to eat, to warm their cold and hungry bellies. During these cold winters, my favorite place to be after school was with my grandma, in her bakery.
After a long school day, I remember climbing on top of her brick oven, along with my brother and sister, where we would play games on its roof. The roof was quite high, higher than the average roof of a one story house, and it had a commanding view of the entire bakery. We would watch her customers come and go, without them being aware of our presence.
Much like a tree house, this sneaky and elevated place created a safe "fort" for us.
But this place was a little too safe and comfortable for us to stay awake and play: The warm stone floor of the oven's roof combined with the roaring but soothing sound of the fire below created the most peaceful and cozy environments to take a nap.
I usually woke up after an hour long nap feeling like a bear out of hibernation, as if the winter was gone and I had been asleep for months. That's how cozy and warm my Grandma's huge brick oven was. The roof of that oven was an escape; a place of comfort from all of my troubles and fears as a child.
Many years later, as an adult, after a long day's work and a cold ride home on the bus and subway in Toronto, I often visited my Nene in her second floor room at my Hagop Keri's place in North York.
I would usually lie next to her in her bed and talk about her day; what she ate, who came to visit, etc. We would both look out the window to the passers-by the street below while she would tease me about taking my sweet time finding that "Right Armenian Girl".
As I used to make these visits with her, I couldn't help but feel a little nostalgic.
Even though my Nene was long way from Anjar, and even though her bakery was no longer around, along with the roaring, raging, great, fiery blasts of her huge brick oven; that didn't matter. Because the one essential thing that still surrounded her presence was the warmth and comfort of that bakery.
Lying next to her on her bed felt just like lying on the warm stone roof of her oven. Listening to her talk and laugh was like the sound of that soothing fire, delicately vibrating the bricks of the oven.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized that those safe and cozy feelings I had as a child didn't all coming from that huge oven. After raising and caring for her own six children, this strong woman of 95 years also knew how to love and comfort her grand and great grandchildren. That's how cozy and warm my Grandma's huge heart was.
Rest in peace Nen, I love you.