A pink taxi

A pink taxi

January 10, 2011

Great Uncles and Great Aunts

I was fortunate to have known and loved a great aunt and a great uncle. These two individuals were great in their own terms, because they were dynamic, active politically and intellectually. I have dedicated a posting to both Saeb and Ambara Salaam, both of whom I was close to.

My children are very fortunate to have young great uncles and aunts, with whom they have grown close. My eldest son visited with my paternal aunt in Beyrouth recently. She is my father's younger sister. They  immediately had chemistry, their love of golf bringing them together. He already loved her for all the memories I've shared of her with him. I had told him how caring she always was. She bought me my first walkman, and  I still fondly remember our trip to the London Zoo when we stayed at her house one summer.

In Dubai,  my kids live surrounded by their great- uncles and great-aunts. My oldest maternal uncle always gifted my kids with the nicest Christmas presents. He also often joins in for the impromptu violin concert at my house and my kids appreciate the interest he takes in them. My uncles are down to earth and athletic, teaching the eldest volleyball and generally being amazing role models to my kids. My son brags to his friends that his great-aunt and uncle kite-surf and that his great-aunts play polo and that one is a champion fencer. How many other kids can say that about their great aunts and uncles?

It is strange to even call my two aunts in Dubai  "great-aunts" as they are athletic, beautiful, glamorous and dynamic. My eldest son once told his teacher about one of them: "when I grow up, I want to be as successful as my great aunt, who heads the Civil Aviation in Dubai." I am proud that his role model is a woman! My youngest maternal aunt, they nickname "super mom" because she is always taking them somewhere exciting, whether it is Cirque de Soleil, Ski Dubai, Swimming/Volley Ball or to the Dubai Mall. Her younger children, my own cousins, are my children's age. She packs them  all in her very fast and glamorous car and takes off with them.

Unfortunately, not all of my great uncles and aunts live close to us in Dubai. The twin brother of "the super-mom great aunt" lives in San Francisco, but my kids had the opportunity to get to know him on our winter break. No sooner had he given a bear hug to my kids, that he wrestled the eldest to the floor and immediately broke the ice! Then he took that same son's eye glasses off, asked for some Windex and wiped them clean for him.

Above is a lovely photo of my nephew with his own great-uncle, on my paternal side. He visited him in Beyrouth  recently for the first time. Notice the beautiful front door of the traditional Lebanese villa. They barely know each other but you can already perceive the intimacy. The picture says it all: the apple never falls far from the tree!


  1. I grew up surrounded by uncles,aunts and cousins.I never had the opportunity to even meet my grandfathers,nor my grandmothers,so how about great uncles or aunts?Those days people married late and died early,so the generations had barely time to be with their own parents:my father passed away when I was 12!
    Nevertheless,the fact that I had 7 uncles and 3 aunts on my father's side and 6 uncles on my mother's side gave me the opportunity to be raised amongst around 60 first cousins on both sides of the family.Add to that,some of my cousins were the age of my aunts or uncles,so we had enough bonding at all levels and ages.
    The family chain is so important,in that subconciously the child feels that the trunk of his family tree is multi-layered and his roots are deeply entrenched.

  2. Family in general is so important, especially when you are still in your formative years. I know that with my kids, they have an instant feeling of love and intimacy with cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents and greatgrandmothers, whether they see them once a year or every other weekend. It helps them feel grounded and secure. Tarek and Zayd of course love each and every one of their first cousins on both sides. But they have also discovered second cousins this last year and those kids are also special to them. They also love dean and my first cousins, many of whom are still young and unmarried and full of fun!

    When I see Zayd hugging his beloved great grandmother, and pulling her around her house wherever he goes, my heart opens up. He is so lucky to be able to have this relationship with her, and I know she too feels blessed to know him so well. Both old and young benefit greatly from cross generational interactions. It makes the younger ones wiser, and keeps the older generations young.

  3. God was wise to include uncles/aunts as well as great uncles/great aunts: so us, as children, would not only learn from our parents but from those that have the closest connection to their world, which gives us a broader feel for what life has to offer outside the realm of our nuclear family...