A Kurdish Heirloom To Treasure
By: Fargo Bcn Every family has an heirloom they hold dear. We cherish these physical objects because they represent a link to our past, a way to understand more about the people responsible for us being here today. From the tiniest thing we can imagine to a headdress passed down to generations, faded family photos to long-cherished handwoven native garb heirlooms, the stories behind it can add life to a family tree. Incorporating heirlooms into family gatherings can be a powerful way to get loved ones to open up and share stories about relatives, past and present.
As a guest to a Kurdish family who invited me to visit Kurdistan- (Iraq), I felt honored and loved to be at their family circle gathering. Seated in a semi-circle, we listened to the eldest member of the family recollects when his memories; his beautiful stories took us back somewhere in time when they were young with their parents and grandparents. I imagined myself being one of the children of freedom fighters, called peshmerga; who revolted and defended their beloved nation, labored to make a strong foundation and dignified people that will keep the family tradition alive and closely knitted together up to this present day and for the next generation to come. Stories like this inspired family members to share their memories of their grandparents and ancestors. It was a perfect moment for me to listen to their survival stories, continued fight for freedom, and love for their nation without a country of their own. That only the mountains are the trusted friends of the Kurds. Listening to their story makes me admire not only the life of my Kurdish host family but the entire Kurdish nation. I may not understand everything, but with the help of a few members of the family who speak English, they patiently explained what was being related. Their remarkable stories from the past inspired everyone to share family heirlooms during the gathering to illuminate the lives of their ancestors.
Coming from a culture where I trace my ancestry from the native Igorots of the Bontoc tribe, I learned from my grandparents the importance of family heirlooms and how they should be valued. It’s not only a family tradition to be treasured but also speaks more about our heritage and identity as unique mountain people. Every single heirloom has a story waiting to be told. We believe that heirlooms sold or given outside the family clan will bring curses or bad luck to the family. I believe many of my people still keep that belief today. But what about acquiring a precious family heirloom from a family you don’t come from? How would you accept it if you don’t have any connection trace? How would you even react to it?
Not belonging to a Kurdish family lineage, how can I accept a family heirloom that I don’t deserve to have? Caught by surprise, I was motionless and speechless in front of everyone. I thought I imagined things. The happening was surreal. It’s something that never occurred in my mind. How can this be happening? I asked at the back of my mind. As (uncle Ali), the family's eldest member handed me the pocket watch, which belonged to their parents, I hesitated at once without even a second thought. It’s not that I don’t like it, but I don’t find any reason to deserve it. Feeling sorry, I shook my head to reject.
I know I didn’t have the proper manner over the situation, but I managed to reason why I couldn’t take it. I’m sure there has to be someone in the family worthy of inheriting this precious object but not me. There has to be a reasonable explanation for why the family is passing it down to me. The more I made excuses, the greater they insisted to convince me to have it as a gift. The siblings, Ali and Nahida pleaded that I should accept it as a token from their family. Nahida explained further that it’s an expression of gratitude and gratitude for what I have done for their son... for considering their son as my family when we found each other in Finland. Having heard these words, tears voluntarily poured down my cold face. There was silence for a moment. I breathed deeply and wiped my tears. As I looked around me, I saw the expression of their soft faces wanting me to have it. With a humble heart, I accepted the family heirloom, promising to take good care of it. My twenty-day visit to Kurdistan was fun-filled with great adventure and, most of all, inspiring. A journey that gave more significant meaning to my existence. Not only about the object that I acquired but its significance that brought joy to me. More so about the Kurds who have touched my life with their extraordinary love, treatment, and warm hospitality. May it lead me back to return what was entrusted to me one day. And if life fades, I wish that someone from my family will find his or her heart to carry this heirloom back to where it belongs someday. I just have to cherish the love and blessings poured into it. I may not understand the message it has for me, but I will someday.
Four weeks have passed, but it seems only yesterday that I was fitting into my traditional Kurdish dress and trying to follow the steps as we sang and danced festively. But as the cold wind touched my cheeks, I realized it was just my wishful thinking. As the evening falls and the noisy seagulls find their resting place, I sit on a quiet balcony at my apartment in Finland. As I look up to the heavens, I see the stars looking down at me, smiling. From those stars, I see the happy faces of my ancestors and those ancestors of my extended Kurdish family who treated me like their own daughter and sister. Same people who embraced me and lovingly took care of me. The same people I prayed with praised me even if they praise Allah and myself to the Giver of Life who created heaven and earth. To the same God who authored my life as to why did all these things happen to me. I smiled and whispered with delight, thanking God for all His blessings. Alhamdulillah. الحمد لله . Chayaw ken Chios Ama.