The woman poured hot tea from her cup into the saucer, gave it a couple of cooling swirls and gulped it down in one, refreshing slurp. Having never seen someone drink out of a saucer before, Eryn gave the woman the oddest, what-on-earth-are-you-DOING look and drew closer to my leg. The woman laughed heartily and coaxed Eryn with a chocolate. By the end of tea, Eryn was flying through the air to give her kisses.

Hajiya’s hands were covered in traditional Iraqi Bedouin tattoos. As were her feet, chest and, to my surprise, much of her face. From her eyebrows to her toes, this kind elder stuffing my toddler full of chocolates was officially the most tattooed woman I had ever met. And I desperately wanted to hear the story behind each dot and talisman flowing like poetry on her skin.

For almost two years Hajiya and her lovely daughter have taken care of my sister-in-law – sharing food and family support since both extended families live an ocean away. I’ve heard many stories of Hajiya’s desert wisdom and kindness and was very excited to meet her.

Speaking broken English and though translations of a Kuwaiti dialect, we discussed my sister-in-law’s upcoming boxing match and my current pregnancy. Eryn interrupted and put her hand on my belly, saying: “Baby! Mama, womb.” Then, nodding for emphasis, she took the opportunity to mention our nursing arrangement.

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