One of Dad’s best buddies was Hyrayr Agababian, who possibly had the best name EVER. Uncle Hyrayr was married to Aunt Maria Rosa, a gorgeous classy Argentine woman. They were both fiery, passionate people and of course fought like feral cats. Yet I remember Uncle Hyrayr also looking tenderly at her, referring to her as Mari-Rose, as if describing the most delicate of flowers.
Uncle Hyrayr had a fantastic mustache and a head of thick salt and pepper hair to match. He used to twirl the ends of his mustache and purse his lips in a frown while teasing us or delivering a punch line to a joke with complete seriousness. We absolutely adored him.
One night we were over at their house for dinner, and Uncle Hyrayr took us into the garage. Nestled under a large tarp, we saw a glimpse of something shiny and red with yellow accents.
“Girls, did your father ever tell you about our summer job when we were young men?”
We shook our heads in wonder as he pulled off the tarp with a flourish. There stood a red and yellow trolley car, gleaming in the bare bulb hanging from the garage ceiling.
“We were carnies!” Dad crowed with glee.
“We used to drive from one state fair to the next all summer long, selling popcorn and cotton candy out of this window here,” Uncle Hyrayr explained. I had an image flash in my imagination of a young Uncle Hyrayr with his walrus beard and Dad with a cigar dangling from his teeth, in straw hats, handing out candied apples.
Dad had a far away look in his eyes. “We would stay up all night driving from one camp to the next. Hyrayr would tell me to keep him awake while he drove, so I would start serenading him! Remember, Hyrayr? Alla en el rancho grande, alla donde vivIIIAAAAA. Ayyyaaaiiiiiii!”
Uncle Hyrayr cringed and covered his ears. “That song haunts me to this day, Varush.”
“Hey, you stayed awake!” replied Dad. “That was a good time. I can’t believe you’ve kept the car all these years, Hyrayr.”
Uncle Hyrayr grinned and winked at us. “Best summer of my life, my friend.”
Uncle Hyrayr died a few years ago. He was one of Dad’s oldest friends, one of the good old Armenian boys Dad used to pal around with. I wonder what ever happened to the popcorn car.