Was it fate or was it meant to be? It was a question hovering in the back of my mind all the time. It's been four years since this precious family heirloom has been passed down to me by a great man who I never knew would change my life. He was a retired peshmerga, a wonderful husband to his wife, and a loving father to his son and daughter. A respectable man with good wisdom, and a great friend to everyone. His heart was meek and humble as a lamb but as strong as an ox.
It was the last day of Ramadan in 2016, just the following day when I arrived in Duhok city, Southern Kurdistan region (Iraq). The celebration of Eid al-Fitr also called the "Festival of Breaking the Fast" is an important day for Muslims to observe. In fact, it's the happiest festivity in the whole month of Ramadan where family, relatives, and friends come together to eat and share their blessings. It's the very day where I found myself completely embracing a new culture in a different world. I haven't got any idea of what was going to happen that day but I surely know that I am about to immerse myself in the Kurdish tradition. I just enjoyed every detail that was new to my sight. It was a welcoming change and an overwhelming experience. As I stood by the entrance door together with my host family welcoming relatives and friends who came to greet "Eid Mubarak" or Happy Eid, I can't help but notice the surprised faces of each of them seeing an Asian lady with short hair and not wearing a Kurdish dress. I do have a Kurdish dress tailored especially for me which was given as a gift by my host family but I wasn't comfortable using it that day. I hope I didn't dishonor them for not dressing properly. I thought there are so many things going on that I just wanted to wear my usual casual shirt and hanging pants so I can move comfortably. It's the peak of summer and I'm glad they understood and respected my choice.
My host family with siblings, cousins, nephews, and nieces gathered around. Few ladies were preparing food at the kitchen while everyone seated in the big living room. Two beautiful ladies came to sit beside me purposely to be my translator. Both are college students in the university who speaks English well. As the conversation began and stories recollected, I earnestly listened feeling every heartbeat and deep emotion, imagining what was being related. They explained what was going on and what was being said.
Then the moment came when I was asked to sit next to the elder member of the family. Uncle Ali pulled out something from his pocket. Everyone stared to look what was it then all in awe. It's a beautiful pocket watch. I can already see its vintage cover that's neatly polished. He looked to everybody bestowing his happy smile following a brief history of how his parents got it and then given to him when his father passed way. Having said that, he turned his face towards me to hand me the pocket watch. I was shocked and speechless. Suddenly my tears just voluntarily fell like streams. I didn't expect anything like this. I'm lost for words. Without even thinking, I hesitated. I refused to take the family heirloom. I have no reason to because I don't belong to the family bloodline. I'm sure there's got to be someone deserving to have it and not me. I suddenly felt in my chest a burden, a responsibility if I were to accept it. I asked them, "Why me?" Nahida looked at me with her sweet and kind face as she begged me, saying, "Please accept it as a gift. It's a precious heirloom from our parents and we like you to have it. Take it as a symbol of our love and gratefulness for accepting our son like your own son in Finland. Now we like to do the same to you." The room was completely subdued and silent. With a humble heart, I accepted it with deep respect and honor.
That's how I become a keeper of a Kurdish family heirloom, and that's how my story began...
*****❤️In loving memory of uncle Ali🌷*****