My daughter decided to make a family tree the other night and asked me to fill in the names. She just turned nine, the same age my grandfather was when his mother and father and four sisters were killed as part of a plan to rid the land of us.
I could have told her everything I knew: that he wandered through the Syrian desert and was taken in by a band of Bedouins who dressed him as a girl. That he ended up in an orphanage in Constantinople and then made his way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. That he somehow became a successful businessman, a community leader, a wearer of debonair hats and suits. That he married the prettiest, most well-connected girl in town and had three sons, the eldest of whom was my father. That he never talked about what happened to him, not even with other survivors sitting by the firelight, drinking Arak while, in the houses, the women boiled thick, oily coffee in jezves. That I never knew him―because he died before I was born―but that no one else did either.
Armenians have weird-sounding names, strange food, a 36-letter alphabet of loop-y letters framed and hanging in the family room. They come from some land far away and have been here since before Noah’s Ark, are resilient, exotic, creative, talkative, hairy, like to cook meat over an open flame and they produced her mother, her origin. Let that be what she knows for just a while longer.
Lori Yeghiayan Friedman is an Armenian-American writer living in Portland, OR. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Post Road Magazine, XRAY Literary Magazine, The Nasiona, Hippocampus, JMWW and The Citron Review. Her creative nonfiction piece ‘How to survive a genocide” appeared in Exposition Review’s 2020 Act/Break issue and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She earned an MFA in Theatre from UC San Diego.