Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Can I Get a Hand?

A week or two ago, when we were crossing a busy road, I grabbed Hollywood's hand.  As large as mine now, but thick with the strength of a man's, his hand was unfamiliar in mine, to remind me that it had been a long time since I last held it.

He looked up, as startled as I was. That's how long it had been!  But, he didn't let go, or shake me off. Instead, he smiled. And it was wonderful!  A rare gift that I'm not likely to get again, or at least not more than a few times, before he finds another hand to hold.


There comes a time when our children no longer allow us to smother them with touch.  For some--like The Storm, so concerned with the judgement of her peers--this comes early. When your child pulls away to avoid a schoolyard hug, you remember it, like a fist to the gut.

Other times it's more subtle: A few wiggly fingers aside an over the shoulder smile, while she hustles past the threshold of a friend's home, her pillow tucked under her other arm, to let you know it's too early, or too late, for a goodnight kiss.

Other times, it's so gradual that you can't even remember when you last held your son's hand, or even when you stopped. Sixth grade? Fifth grade? Fourth?


Before she left for the weekend, I wrapped my arms around Sunshine to say goodbye. In that embrace: relief, love, fear, hope, need, and even my baby girl, so that we stayed that way, pressing on each other's backs, and folding into the other's shoulders for longer than either of us expected to. 

It was a little like the moment in traffic with Hollywood.  Something that surprised us both, but something we both needed.

As they grow to be as tall as we are, or even taller, we settle for smiles and wiggling fingers, maybe a little hair tousling, a pat on the arm or the back--so much less than we need.  Less than they need, too.

"Mom, did you know that it's been proven that holding hands and hugging reduces stress?" (Hollywood, of the app generation, has recently stumbled upon a trivia one.)

"I did know that. But I'd forgotten. Thanks for the reminder, Buddy."

You'd think, since it's such a natural thing, that we'd all know how to hug properly, and certainly there's no wrong way to do it, but the next time you find yourself wrapped in someone's arms, try this: Place both hands flat on your recipient's upper back and press; have them do the same for you. Tell me it doesn't make a difference!

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