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Shish Kebabs at the Eiffel Tower

The thing is, they are my monkeys. Biologically at least. It may seem odd to most normal people but despite hating the physical symptoms, I am happy to have my auto-immune disorders because I know where they came from. Ingrid has them, as does her brother and our mother admitted that she carries the rogue gene that created them. For the first time in my life there is a tangible connection, proof of where I came from. Sure it would have been nicer for the shared part to be something less painful, like my sticky out right ear, but I guess I have my father to thank for that one.

Speaking of him, Ingrid decided that it was time for her/our mother to tell me truth about him and so yesterday she did. Turns out I am not the person that I thought I was. Ever since I inadvertently discovered that I was adopted at age 11 I have fantasized about the French man described in the adoption agency’s report. I wrote a school essay about him which ultimately turned into my first solo show, ‘Hot Dogs at the Eiffel Tower’. I recently wrote about him here for Father’s Day.

Mostly, Ingrid just wanted a name for me. A way to search for him. It’s just not the name I was expecting. Not Pierre or Jean-Luc or Jacques or Yves.

Dicran Haratian.

Yup, that’s my dad, Dic. What part of France does he originate from you wonder? Well it’s the part that’s actually called Armenia* and is nowhere near France. My/our mother swears that she told me he was Armenian when we met and it’s entirely possible that she did but that I heard Parisian instead. I’m not sure they have hot dogs in Armenia.

The part in my adoption papers about them meeting in France is at least correct. He was studying at INSEAD, the top business school in Europe. My/our mother was not studying but was an au-pair, which is why I’m only partially intellectually brilliant. Funny that she was over there looking after someone else’s kids but then gave up her own. Is that you I hear Alanis Morrisette?

You can’t really blame the adoption agency for fudging the truth a little. Mr and Mrs Gallant would have surely had a few reservations about an Armenian baby. What if I came out brown and with a persecution complex? French made me a little more palatable, at worst I’d be arrogant and a little cowardly in times of war.

This was how the agency report described him:

father2I’ve always been a little confused by that description of him as a swimmer (sperm notwithstanding). Paris is not known for its beach access and you can’t really smoke Gauloises a la piscine. So it came as a shock but also a relief to discover that the agency lied about this too. According to Ingrid, my/our mother never even saw him swim.  NEVER. How can I trust a word of this report? What next, the discovery that he never read anything either? Was he even friendly? Oh my poor non reading, non swimming, Syrian-Armenian dad, so many lies.

What happens next? I don’t really know. Right now I’m not ready to give up on my perfect French father so I guess the Haratian’s will have to wait a while. I did of course google him and there’s a Dr Haratian in California. According to the agency, my father did have a brother who was a doctor in America so who knows if this is my cousin or some other relative. Haratian isn’t exactly a common name, well except for in Armenia I suppose, though nor is it terribly distinguished sounding. More like the sound of a sneeze. At least one good thing to come out of my adoption is a decent surname.

Of course Dicran is also the member of my family that I most resemble. Remember how my mother wasn’t entirely sure who my father was until she met me at our reunion? I’ve always believed that this was because I’m the spit image of him. Turns out it’s just his nose that I’ve inherited or at least that’s what Ingrid said her/our mother remembered most. Is the Armenian nose that distinctive?I’ve never been particularly keen on my profile because of my nose. It doesn’t look like it belongs on my face, it’s too sharpy and pointy looking. Erik will probably call it cute, but he thinks the neighborhood dog that’s a cross between a golden retriever and a dachshund is cute, whereas I think it’s a bit of a hybrid freak.

If only Sandy had kept me and played happy families with the non-swimming, not necessarily friendly Syrian-Armenian. He and I could have amused each other for hours with the ‘I’ve got your nose’ game.

None of this is particularly funny, well apart from the swimming part which amuses me far more than it should. But I think I’m ok with it and Ingrid and I are at least grateful that my/our mother didn’t go on to marry a Turk.**

*Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding Mount Ararat which you may know from the recent action movie ‘Noah’.

**May require access to Wikipedia and/or history book.



4 thoughts on “Shish Kebabs at the Eiffel Tower”

  1. You keep me laughing and this story is so interesting, like AS THE WORLD TURNS. Where is that show now????? My mother watched it every day of her life and referred to the actors in it by first name and got mad at them or happy with them, depending on their actions at the time. Lots of judgement was available.

    I read everything, keep it coming.

  2. Thanks Aralyn, it’s certainly taking some odd turns but glad to be able to write about it. Determined to get Ingrid out here some time and definitely want you to meet her.

  3. Very nicely written. Armenia is an interesting country, at least the former Soviet republic with which I am familiar. By the way, neither the Armenians nor the Turkish care each other very much.

  4. Thanks John. Just discovered today from Ingrid, via our mother, that Charles Aznavour is French-Armenian. And about the same age as my dad would be. My new play is writing itself!

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