Sofia Aldinio

Anaam Jabbar

The first thing Anaam Jabbar wants you to know about her is that she is an educated woman. She studied to be an agricultural engineer, but her degree isn’t recognized in America. Instead, Anaam sews for American Roots, a made and sourced in the USA fleece-wear factory, where she is head of the labor union. She’s vastly overqualified, but she is grateful to be a part of a small enterprise where, “they treat us like family. You feel human.”

In the break room at the factory, Anaam sets two objects on the table. One is a delicate golden urn, not much larger than a key, with an intricate, latticed, wafer-thin top connected to a narrow pestle. The object, called mekhala, in Arabic, is the container that holds a fine black powder ground from fig seeds. “This is famous in my country,” Anaam beams. “We have people from Iraq who make this.” Women mix this powder with water to make a thick black eyeliner. “All natural,” Anaam touts, stating its beneficial qualities for sensitive skin. But carrying this mekhala is less about the magical properties of the beauty product it holds, and more about a reverence toward tradition. It was handed down from her grandmother, to her mother, to Anaam.

Anaam’s stunning, hazel-green eyes are impeccably lined. These days, she orders the powder from abroad. The other item is a necklace, strung with luminous, red, jewel-shaped glass beads. Anaam snakes it through her fingers and lays it gently across her palm. It was her mother’s necklace. She wore it to give her strength, and Anaam has done the same.

Now, having carried it over 5,500 miles to her new home in Portland, Maine, this treasure is Anaam’s connection to her newly widowed mother in Baghdad. Sure, they can chat over Skype, but there are memories housed in our heirlooms that aren’t always as easily accessed through a video screen. It is the love of her family and ancestry that she carries as one of the new faces of Portland, Maine.

Anaam’s stunning, hazel-green eyes are impeccably lined. These days, she orders the powder from abroad. The other item is a necklace, strung with luminous, red, jewel-shaped glass beads. Anaam snakes it through her fingers and lays it gently across her palm. It was her mother’s necklace. She wore it to give her strength, and Anaam has done the same.

Now, having carried it over 5,500 miles to her new home in Portland, Maine, this treasure is Anaam’s connection to her newly widowed mother in Baghdad. Sure, they can chat over Skype, but there are memories housed in our heirlooms that aren’t always as easily accessed through a video screen. It is the love of her family and ancestry that she carries as one of the new faces of Portland, Maine.

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