Since day one, I have been mesmerized by auntie Roukia’s refinement of movement and simple elegance. The way she moves trough her tedious daily chores with effortless gracefulness always harbors within me a feeling of solemn wonder. Whether she is sweeping the dusty floor, cooking a delicious Amazigh Tagine, or about to go feed the family’s cow, auntie Roukia moves and bends her body so delicately. Almost in a balletic style. I mostly love it when she readies herself to cut grass in the nearby fields. She puts on her plastic boots, wraps up a rag around her waist, and wears a straw hat. She then places her hand scythe on her right shoulder, and carries along a plastic bag, and a rope that she will later use to hold the heavy load of grass on her steel back. Nothing about aunty Roukia’s attire is fancy, and yet. Everything about her liberates an aura of mysterious majesty. I often secretly praise myself for having the classiest host mom in the village!
Auntie Roukia and I do not speak the same language. When she tries to tell me something in Arabic, she almost always mixes up Amazigh and Arabic words, and ends up uttering weird sentences. Everyone then laughs joyfully. For my part, I too try to speak with her, but the little Amazigh I have been learning with difficulty for the past few months is not very helpful. I wish that one day, after learning a bit more of Amazigh, I can engage her in long conversations, and know more of the super woman she undoubtedly is.
It is tradition in my community to eat vegetables first in a Tagine, and leave meat for the end. When she distributes the meat, auntie Roukia always insists on giving me a bigger portion. Several times during our family meals, I noticed that she would stop eating first; then, when everyone else would stop eating too, if there remains a leftover, she would eat it. The way I have come to understand this habit of hers is that she seems to be favoring her family members’ satiation over hers. It reminds me of my own mother, and probably most mothers worldwide. Every time, as she finishes the uneaten food with a profound humility and grace, I watch her out of the corner of my eyes. It makes me reflect with utmost reverence and respect about the divine virtues of motherhood. And also makes me yearn with impatience to become myself a loving mother one day soon.
As to when I have to wake up early in the morning to catch the only available transit to the city, auntie Roukia always wakes up earlier than everyone else in order to prepare a hot fresh breakfast specially for me. During the harsh winter daybreaks, as I would penetrate the kitchen with my bag pack, she would immediately seat me down on the kitchen’s divan, cover me with a blanket, and ask me to remain seated until the breakfast is ready. When it is time that I come back to my village, auntie Roukia always welcomes me with the most heartwarming of hugs!
Auntie Roukia does not like to be photographed, but I have made it a promise not to leave my village without a photograph with her and my entire host family. A photograph that I will duly frame and place in my room when it is time to go back home. Go back after having secured another family. Another home. How rich I have become!
I will never forget you auntie Roukia. Mommy Roukia. You have touched my heart and soul. I love you. Always.
Your host daughter - Saâdia :)