The Girl Who Forgot How To Hug

by - September 4, 2016

We believe in affection and we pride ourselves on being a house bursting at the seams with an over-kill kind of love. There are hugs and kisses and cuddles and tickles and giggles and hand-holding and all the other ways to say 'I love you' without words. Within our four walls, this is one value that rises to the top.

Touch is the most powerful of whispers.

There was a moment last year when I dropped my teenage son off for a field trip. Right there in front of the school. Right there in front of his friends. He kissed me goodbye like it was the most natural thing in the world. "Love you, too," he said, confident enough for them all to hear. I melted. I thought: every mother in the world wants to be me right now! And I'm not sure I'm wrong.

{Now, in the spirit of full honesty, I am not a hugger. Not really. Within my own home? Sure. But beyond those walls, I'm not the one to step out and wrap you up in the kind of embrace that makes a person grunt. I might love you radically and wildly but it's in a quiet kind of way. I love gently outside my home. I'll hug you if you are the initiator it but I'm not likely to grab you from behind in a sneak attack. If you want that from me then you'll have to move in!

the girl who forgot how to hug
My daughter is laden with a sweetness that oozes from her eyes in brilliant sparkles. I'm not sure she's fully human. No one really glitters like that, do they? It's like a fairy snuck in and stirred a little magic before she was born. And for six or seven years she was a full participant in our ongoing snuggle party.

But then it stopped.

She forgot how to hug.

And the dysfunction in her arms needled into my heart like a sliver you just couldn't get with the tweezers. "Hug me!" I'd beg, holding her against me, her arms limp at her side. "Hug me!"

But she wouldn't. I think part of her thought it was funny, but I think the other part did actually forget. 

She was broken.

Except she wasn't because she had a stuffed dog named Bailey to whom she'd warmly cling all night long.

It was a mystery I needed solved but I failed to follow the clues. There were none. No rhyme nor reason for her sudden lack of embracabilities. "Why won't you just hug me??!" I'd ask, physically taking her arms and putting them around my waist, holding them there so I could remind myself what it was once like. "How am I supposed to even know you still love me?" Trying to guilt her into a good squeeze.

"Because I love you," she'd say—too smart for passive aggressive persuasion.

Sometimes I would pick her up—even though she's much too big for that now—just so she'd have to hang on, just so her arms would cling to me out of necessity. It wasn't the same. 

I spent a year being unsatisfied.

And then. Magic. Two weeks ago she came up to me in the kitchen. Those two arms, longer than the last time they reached for me, came around my waist in a gentle whisper of all-on-her-own and they tensed in the soft kind of grip a hug is made of and I stopped everything and called out so the whole family could hear: 

"Good gravy, what is this?"

She giggled but didn't let go. That mean old sliver was loosened and dissolved into nothing. "Don't forget again," I said to her.

She just smiled the kind of smile that shakes glitter over your whole body and kept on squeezing.

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