I’ve been half joking with friends trying to come up with a new appropriate greeting for that awkward moment when we first see each other (outside/six feet apart) and can’t hug in this new age of social distancing. The elbow bump was big for a while and so too the wave.
I toyed around with holding my hands together in front of my chest and bowing my head down to meet them, but then I remembered that I was not in a yoga class, and I am not that spiritual. I’ve clapped a few times at first site of a small group of good friends on my back deck, not able to contain my excitement to be with them, but that was weird.
It’s all so weird right now
It’s all weird, so weird. I picked my snowbird father up at the airport after he returned home from Florida last month. I hadn’t seen him in seven months, which I believe is the longest stretch I had ever gone without seeing him, and that included the time I lived on another continent.
When he walked across the airport sidewalk divider sporting a mask under a face shield, I stayed in the driver’s seat, popped open the trunk of my car so he could put his luggage in, and then I instructed him to open the back door and take a seat. I felt like his taxi driver. If I had a plexiglass shield available to me behind my head, I would have closed it — to protect him, more than me.
My instinct is to go in for the hug, to wrap my arms around the people I love when I first greet them. It’s my way of telling them that I am happy to be with them, that they matter to me and that I want to hold on to this piece of them even for just a moment in the embrace.
I am stuck with just memories of hugs
Over the last few months of not being allowed to hug, I have held on to the memories of the hugs of those I love. As I drove my father to his house from the airport that day, I remembered what hugging him felt like. He is tall, so I have to reach up for the embrace. He’s thin so there is not a lot to grab. His hands are big, dry and sometimes cracked. I imagined how they would feel around my shoulders as a I held tightly onto my steering wheel not wanting to breathe too much in the confines of the front seat and my mask.
My close female friends’ hugs feel so natural. Their bodies fall easily into alignment with mine like puzzle pieces that click together on the first try. I sometimes go in for a tight squeeze when I haven’t seen one of them for what feels like too long.
The squeezes are my wink to them, saying without words that we need to get together more often, that I miss you, and I love you. My brother’s hug is quite tight and usually punctuated with a too wet cheek kiss, which makes me laugh – every time.
My aunt’s hugs feel like a welcome home, much like I remember my late mother’s to be. I could stay in them forever. Lately, I have been trying to feel all of them – as best as I can without actually experiencing them.
I am lucky in that I live in a bubble with my husband and two teenage children. I hug them — a lot. Sometimes, several times throughout the day as I pass them in our routine of being home together. I joke that my son has become my lapdog as I reach for him on the couch and then he puts his feet up on my lap. My husband’s midday work from home/quick break from a conference call standing hug in the kitchen gives me the energy I need at that moment.
And when my daughter initiates a hug, which happens less frequently than the other two humans in my house, it somehow feels like coming home to my mom — as my daughter is just now about the same size as I remember my mother to be and strangely share her same scent.
I hope that someday soon we will go back to hugging
I do believe that I will one day hug again outside of my bubble. We all will. I only hope we are not so scarred from our current existence of social distancing, that we become frightened at the thought of embracing those we love again.
I think about that as I cross the street when I see a friendly neighbor walking too close to my side of the road, or when I purposefully move to another aisle in the grocery store avoiding an acquaintance who I fear may talk to me for too long and at too close a distance. Perhaps she won’t recognize me in my mask, I think/hope to myself. I don’t like that feeling.
Full warning to friends and family and perhaps even strangers out there. When I can hug again, I am coming out in full force. I may never sample coffee shots again at Trader Joe’s again, and using a public bathroom will surely take some time, but I am coming in for those hugs – hard and for way too long stretches of time.
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