That Saturday my Tante Leyla drove us up to Batroun. I was seventeen the last time I was in Batroun, and four years had passed since I had seen most of my family. The flood of memories was overwhelming.
Memories of my Tante Aida and her crystal animal collection, the way I howled when she rubbed garlic into an insect bite that had swollen my five-year-old arm stiff. Images of my Tante Eva popping chili peppers into her mouth like candy, and my Amo Skandar grinning beneath a cloud from his hubbly bubbly water pipe. Vivi's drawings, Rani and her oh-so cool roll-on glitter stick that she rubbed on my cheek. Amo Adnan's laugh. Tante Leyla's stories. Tante Hulya playing the piano. Uncle Tony's jokes. Tante Katya, Amo Eduard, Grace and Carole.
Every tante brought a dish for the feast, and my plate was piled high. True to form, the very moment I ate my last bite, an eagle-eyed auntie insisted I have more. I was lead back to the buffet, where more hummus, kibbeh saniye and warak arish were spooned out, and just when I thought I was in the clear, out came the desserts and fruit. I naïvely thought I could get away with nibbling on a few slices of papaya, but then— then came the shou.
"Shooooou Samantha, why no ice cream? You don't like tiramisu? Yallah, eat some Arabic sweets."
Hold tight to your loved ones.
They are all that truly matters in this terribly brief life.