Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Out of the Woodwork

by Sue Ann Jaffarian
Here’s a side benefit of writing that I never considered until it started happening.

My last name, Jaffarian, is not a common name, but because of my growing presence online and in the writing community, I’ve had many wonderful surprises. Here are a few examples:

After one library event, I was handed a note by the librarian with a name and number. The last name of the woman was Jaffarian. The woman was elderly and wanted to know who I was. Said she didn’t recall any “Sue Anns” in the family. Turns out, she is the widow of one of my father’s cousins and also knew my mother years ago. We had a nice chat.

Janet Gustafson, my roommate during my freshman year in college, wrote me after finding my books on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. She was working there part-time during the holidays. We had a delightful online chat and caught up on our lives.

Paul Smith was reading my blog because his mother enjoyed my books so much and saw a photo of my brother that I posted. Paul was a Boy Scout years ago in my brother’s old troop.

Recently, I heard from Ernie Jaffarian, who attached the above photo and this message: “While searching for an address online, I came across your name and was shocked at how much you look like a member of my family.” No wonder – Ernie’s grandfather was my Uncle Martin (seated). The fact that Ernie and I don’t know each other is no surprise considering my father was the youngest of 13 and we moved from the East Coast when I was 8 or 9. Though I did meet Ernie’s dad and a few of his aunts and uncles when I was very young.

I was also contacted by John Jeffire (Jafaryan), a writer in the Detroit area who was researching his Armenian ancestors. We corresponded, though I’m not sure if we’re related. Both of our ancestors came from Turkey, so there is a good chance there is some connection.

I saved the best for last:

Early last year I received an e-mail from a woman who finds birth parents for adult adoptees. In researching for her client, a Stefan Niemcewicz, she came across my website and contacted me. She gave me some details about Sefan’s birth, including the fact that his mother was a Jaffarian, and asked if I had given up a child for adoption in San Francisco years ago. I immediately responded telling her that, while it wasn’t totally impossible, I was only about 11 or 12 when this man was born. I also let her know that there were Jaffarians located in the Northwest (very distant cousins) and perhaps it was one of them. She wrote back thanking me and gave me a few more details about the birth mother, and asked if I knew anything more to please contact her.

Well, as soon as I saw the new information about Stefan, I picked up the phone and placed a call to my cousin Judy in Florida (who, by the way, is also related to Ernie Jaffarian, above).

Below are photos of Judy meeting for the first time Stefan, the son she gave up for adoption when she was a young woman. Stefan (born Michael Jaffarian) is now a welcomed member of our family.

It is a small world, after all, and so filled with unexpected joy.

Has your writing brought surprises like this?


Lindsay said...

Funny how small this world really is sometimes.
Those people in the first picture sure look like family to me! :-)

And here I was thinking it was us, you and T in the world. ;-)

Bill Cameron said...

That's very cool. I've had a few old friends that I haven't talked to in years get in touch after stumbling across me online. It's such a nice and unexpected side effect of this whole publishing thingie.

Felicia Donovan said...

Sue Ann, what a wonderful post. How nice that the gift of your writing has brought gifts to others. There's another story in there, WRITE IT FORWARD, perhaps?

I have been contacted by several long lost relatives/friends that I grew up with who heard about THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY. It was so wonderful to catch up with them all and to see the pictures of "then" and "now."

bob levinson said...


Ain't life grand.

: )

Candy Calvert said...

Sue Ann--your story and photos put a big lump in my throat. What a wonderful blessing! And how completely Cooool. :-)


Nina Wright said...

Sue Ann, you've just nailed one of the pay-offs of writing under one's real name. Because another mystery writer got there first with my legal first name, I use a nickname acquired in adulthood--after age 30. Once in a while an old friend or boyfriend stumbles on my books and emails to say he/she recognized me. My best surprise in that vein was finding a friend from my post-college theatre days waiting at a book signing in a town I was traveling through.