With my hands full of pillow, my arms full of child and my heart full of love I struggled to the door. It had been another long road trip back home from seeing family.  The kids and my spouse had slept all the way home and after two plus hours of driving I knew there were three trips into the house (one per child) and additional ones for all our stuff.  The stuff was drudgery; the kids a reward.

A friend or family member (I can’t remember which) called the way the kids clung to you, “leaching on” and it couldn’t have been more appropriate.  Two arms around your neck, two legs wrapped around your midsection and their head resting on your shoulder; they didn’t so much hug you as become part of you.  Sort of like the parasitic face-hugger from “Aliens” but in a good way.  The way the kids held on to you as you carried them was indicative of the connection we shared.  We surrendered to the hug.  We surrendered to each other.  If you haven’t experienced that kind of hug I don’t think I can explain it.

There are all kinds of hugs.  There are side hugs and A-frame hugs that are politically and legally correct and oh so sad.  There’s the bro-hug in conjunction with the handshake and double back-tap.  There’s the quick cheek-contact hug for your family member but be careful not to go to the chin-resting-on-the-shoulder hug which is too intimate and will become awkward.  I should know.  Awkwardness in the hugging arts is my middle name.  And not understanding those boundaries is something I’ve taken to another level.  In my defense I’ve just really had no practice.

Early on in this hugging odyssey I didn’t understand the difference in hugs.  I confused the hug after a romantic Artichoke appetizer by candlelight in the fraternity dining room with the hug in that same place with someone else who said she’d never been hugged that way before. I had no idea of the nuances or the implications.  Like a neophyte drinking wine to get drunk, I either stayed away from the stuff or went all in; there was no middle ground.  Often those didn’t end well in either scenario.  I’d like to say I got better at it as I aged and gained experience but that would be a lie.

Looking back I realize there were different hugs from different people who met the different parts of me where I was.  Some were polite, some were needy and some were a formality.  I hugged people I wouldn’t cross the street to say hello to and felt a fraud.  I hugged people I hoped weren’t aware of my true intentions or desires and felt apprehensive.  I never realized the power of a hug however until we had kids.  No hug was more intimate, more deeply caring and more indebted than the hug of a child.  These hugs began at bedtime and ended when we both felt we had become one; our hearts beating together.  This was not a hug to satisfy some requirement or because everyone else was doing it.  This was a hug to convey, by touch, that what held us together was neither arms nor even legs. This was a hug because in the deepest recesses of our soul we were joined together.

If you don’t have kids I recommend glomming onto the person you most feel connected to and not letting go until you feel it.  Rest your head on their shoulder and relax.  Lose all of your thoughts, inhibitions and worries.  Become singular of mind and body and focus on becoming part of them and don’t let go until you’ve felt it for a few moments.  Because when you feel it and remain, the one you’re holding will feel it too.  And I don’t know of a better feeling on this earth or one that explains more why we’re here.

Hugs have always been tough for me to figure out socially.  Maybe that’s why it surprised me that hugging our kids came so naturally.  I’m not sure if I’m alone in this or not to be honest.  Maybe this little dissertation will help you or a friend of yours figure out some things about this whole hugging deal.  I hope so.  Please share it with them if you think it might.

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