A Name, A Journey, and a Touch of Love
By Abdel Hubbi | Fall 2023
In the tapestry of life, our names often serve as the first brushstrokes, painting the initial strokes of our identity. But for many of us, our names can be a source of curiosity, even bafflement. As a Syrian immigrant who found himself transplanted to the United States in 2003, I embarked on a journey marked by transformation and discovery, where my name—Abdel Hubbi—loomed large, a seemingly enigmatic combination of letters that had more to it than met the eye.
It all began with that cultural shift in 2003. A move from Syria to the United States brought with it a barrage of changes, not least of which was the challenge of adjusting to a new language, culture, and way of life. On my first day of school, the cultural shock was nothing short of seismic. Language barriers rendered me virtually mute, and if that wasn’t enough, my innate shyness ensured my silence took center stage.
Yet, as the years unfolded, something marvelous happened. That cocoon of silence slowly began to unravel, and I found my voice. And once I did, there was no stopping me. I dove headfirst into learning, asking questions, and exploring the wonders of the world around me. However, as I embraced my newfound voice and navigated the intricacies of American culture, there was one aspect of my identity that continued to intrigue me—my last name, “Hubbi.” In Arabic, it translated simply to “My Love.” Sounds romantic, right? But in the American context, it was, well, a head-scratcher.
While others sported surnames like Smith, Cook, or Baker, mine was a single word, “Love.” I remember my futile attempts to decipher its meaning by scouring the depths of the internet. “H is for humble, U is for useful, B is for befriend…” were the bizarre results I encountered, leaving me more puzzled than before.
In fact, I even daydreamed about adopting a more conventional, less perplexing name like “Abdel Smith.” But the reality was far from ordinary, as I would soon discover.
It only occurred to me recently that my relationship with my last name is tied to the relationship I have with my father. After all, it was his family’s name. Growing up, I was raised mostly by my mom in her parents’ house. I loved my dad dearly, but our relationship consisted of silent moments, small talks, and long periods of distance. As typical of Middle Eastern culture, my mother never adopted my father’s surname.
So while it had never before occurred to my young self to simply ask my dad about the origin of the name he gave me, a few days ago I decided to do so. After all, he would know better than my mom who I’d constantly annoy with questions about a name that was just as alien to her as it was to me.
His response prompted a chuckle:
“Because they loved each other”
The twist in this narrative arrived unexpectedly as my father shared a striking revelation. It turned out that “Hubbi” wasn’t just a random collection of letters; it was a profound testament to love and unity.
“Them. The people who made the name. They were carpenters I think, they were all such a great family and they decided to make a name for themselves.”
A family of carpenters, bound by their affection for each other, decided to forge this unique name for themselves. It was not merely a moniker; it was a symbol of love that transcended generations and bound a family together in their shared story.
“So they just… made it?”
In the end, my name isn’t just a word; it’s a symbol of love and unity. It serves as a reminder that identity is a blend of culture, history, and, most importantly, love. It’s an unusual name, but it’s mine, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
My full name is عبد العزيزحبي—Abdel Aziz, my love.