I still remember the day I found you and your family. It was 2007 and I was homesick. My heart was bleeding for the sound of Azerbaijani speech or the taste of home. When I voiced my longing, a housemate pointed out that there was an Iranian delicatessen shop nearby. Perhaps they had something that could tickle my fancy?
When I walked into your shop, I could smell home. Grabbing a pack of Iranian fresh dates, feta cheese, honey and other goodies originating near my homeland, I was impatient to pay and run home. Your husband looked at my selection, then at me.
‘Where are you from?’ He asked.
You can imagine I get that question a lot here. I was not in a mood for a small talk. Sensing my hesitation, he decided to help:
‘Greece?’ He didn’t give up.
‘Azerbaijan,’ I said reluctantly. His eyebrows shot up.
‘Salam aleykum,’ his face softened.
I didn’t see that coming. I was so thrown, I replied in Turkish.
‘I’m Azerbaijani,’ he continued talking. ‘We come originally from Iran.’
My longing to speak my language overwhelmed me, yet I stood staring at him. I forgot all about food. There was something better in store for my soul. I stayed and chatted. It was like finding a family, my new family. With time, I got to know you and your two sons. I even celebrated Novruz, a spring festival, with you in 2008. Every time I felt homesick, I had a place to go to.
Since I moved away from that area, I see you less. You are as friendly as ever when I call and occasionally visit you. And of course, your generosity blows my mind away. When I was recovering from a C-section, you cooked me a variety of Azerbaijani meals and brought them to my home. I feasted on those delights for days. This is what mothers do for their daughters in our homeland. On the days of your visits, I felt like I had a mother in this country.
Thank you for all your love. I love you all too.