This Guest Post was written by my mom and best friend, Annie Weaver. I had asked my mom only a few days ago if she’d like to write something for the blog, not really having a clear direction but suggesting that she share about a travel or life experience that was impactful to her in some way. Not two days later, “This Woman I’ve Met” was in my inbox, and I was so inspired I decided that it couldn’t be a standalone piece. I am excited to kick-off a new series I’m calling, appropriately, “This Women I’ve Met,” of which my mom’s post will be the introduction and the heartbeat. Over the next few months, the series will feature stories from some wonderfully courageous women I’ve met along my life journey so far – my momma being at the top of the list! My hope is that the series will inspire, challenge, and, most of all, remind us that we are more alike than we are different.
This Woman I’ve Met || Annie Weaver
I’d like to tell you about a woman I’ve met.
I don’t remember her name. It was hard enough to pronounce it, let alone remember, and I’m bad with names anyway. She was sitting across the aisle from me on an airplane when, in 2010, I was traveling to the Middle Eastern country of Qatar with three teenage girls, including my own daughter. I had allowed Ashley to visit a friend and her family living abroad on condition that I accompany her. With the prospect of a chaperone, the other girls had been permitted to fly the 6,672 miles with us as well. This was a long flight from JFK to Doha and with three consecutive seats in the back and one odd-ball further up in the plane, I had, of course, volunteered to sit alone.
She was only one of the men, women, and children in the sea of Arab faces around me – her feminine face framed in a hijab, her body cloaked in her dark abaya. I had been warned by our future hosts not to expect fellow passengers to engage with me on the flight. This was, after all, post 9-11 and I was an American. I’m not sure if it was our close proximately, intense curiosity, or the fact that my face, as I’ve come to understand in my fifty years here on Earth, invites conversation. Perhaps it was the fact that we were both traveling without husbands. But for some reason, she decided to talk to me.
Her accent was thick but her English was good. She was returning to Pakistan for an undetermined amount of time to help care for her sick and dying mother. She was living in New Jersey with her husband and young children. She was happy to be returning to her homeland. She offered these nuggets of information to me without hesitation. All these years later, I don’t remember much of what I said in response or what I chose to share with her. I do remember listening uncharacteristically more than speaking. Over the course of hours, with pauses, obviously, for her own side conversations with her travel mates and companionable silences, she poured out her heart to me.
Life was hard. Her time in America had been one of extreme isolation. She felt disconnected and lonely most of the time. She wanted a better life and education for her children, but deeply missed her extended family and her culture, especially when it came to the kitchen. How could she, she lamented, feed her family in a healthy manner with THIS – pause here to find the right word – speak it like a curse – MICROWAVE OVEN in place of the fire pit stove she was accustomed to using. I remember her face lighting up when she told me about her food and cooking practices in her home country that she had so dearly missed and would soon be revisiting.
Part way through the trip, she smiled and struggled to explain to me that my name, Annie, had another meaning in her language. She persisted in finding just the right word – not lost in translation, asking a few of her comrades for advice, before finally settling on “RELAXING.” She had no idea that she had chosen to offer me a gift, as I had selected the word RELAX six years earlier as my “Life Word” after struggling with health issues and depression. It was as if God had reminded me not to fear this adventure.
And then the flight was over. We stood, eagerly stretching our cramped legs, when she embraced me like an old friend – another gift. And in that moment, a rush of recognition washed over me. This woman was not a stranger – I had met her many times before!
She had smiled warmly at me on the streets of Mexico City where I had purchased her handmade doll. She had glanced up at me through my van window at a crossroads in Jamaica where she was protesting the lack of clean water for her village. I’d taught her English in Japan. She was my own single mother working nights in a factory to put food on our table.
And in the years since this plane ride, I’ve seen her again and again and again.
She was my dear friend as she cared for her own dying mother. She sat proudly behind me at a military academy parade as she cheered on her daughter’s leading of her squad. I chatted with her last summer at the pool where she had traded her plain dress for a modest swimsuit – she sharing her happiness with me that today was a much anticipated yearly gathering of her children and grandchildren – her one son, daughter-in-law and grandson obviously no longer Amish. She recently started College. She’s living abroad in Paris. I cried hard for her after I heard she had made the heartbreakingly impossible decision to abort her baby. I watched her fight for the educational rights of her special needs child. I saw on social media that she’d started a business in Texas with her daughter. She’d married her long-time partner. There was a picture of her praying on Sacred Ground at Standing Rock, North Dakota. And, she even ran for Office.
She comes from a long line of risk-takers, rule-breakers, and justice-makers. I catch glimpses of her in my mirror.
Do you know this woman I’ve met?
Say Hello to Annie Weaver!
Many of you know my mom, but for those who don't... Annie is an Elementary School Gifted Teacher and lives in New Holland, PA with her husband, Kurt, and two dogs. She loves traveling, bird-watching, sipping orange crushes, and going to concerts, and is freakishly good at figuring out the plot twist in movies. <-- truth.