In church today, as part of the children’s sermon, I helped demonstrate the lesson by hugging each of the children present. Most of them were awkwardly embarrassed but laughing as they ran the “hug gauntlet” but there were a few that actually hugged back. The physical contact I shared with each of them left me feeling pounds lighter afterwards! I have a special affinity for hugs, they energize me like a battery. It’s not that I routinely go around hugging all of humanity, I’m actually very shy about touching others, but there are just some people I feel compelled to hug. It’s like they have some kind of tractor beam, in that moment, pulling me towards them. As time goes on I find myself putting aside social conforms more and going after what I want. I want that hug- let me love you!
A rub of the shoulder, a fleeting caress of the cheek, an innocent grasp of the hand, is something I’ve always needed. Growing up my family wasn’t very touchy-feely. It was up to me to take the initiative and chase down the physical human contact I craved. My grandmother was very good at meeting my cuddling needs, not only with hugs but just touching in general, rubbing my back or playing with my hair, etc. She would often turn it into a game: try to guess the animal she traced over my face (the snake was my favorite. it always made me laugh because it was just 2 pokes to my eyes and one to my nose) or guess what word she was “writing” on my back. One of my favorite parts of spending time with Grandma was reading time. I would climb up onto the counter in the kitchen to get her reading glasses, pick out heaping armfuls of children’s books from the bookshelf, then settle in to hear her read as I looked at all the pictures. I loved the actual reading part, but I think it was the added bonus of getting to sit inside her arms that made it my favorite.
Sometimes my father would agree to rub my back while we watched television together. He’d get distracted and stop making the light swirling touches with his fingers when he became too engrossed in the program he was watching, so I’d impatiently shake my whole body to get him started again, like he was a motor that needed winding! He would let me play with his fingers during church too. His hands would be clasped together, fingers inter-twined, as he tried to listen to the sermon. Soon his thumbs would start absentmindedly rolling over top of each other and I would slyly try to add my thumbs into the mix. This would often turn into a type of thumb war. His hands were so big and rough with calluses, I loved the feel of them against my own soft skin. As a parent myself now, I hug and touch my kids constantly. They’ve never known a time when I wasn’t hugging them, holding their hands, playing with their hair, scratching their backs. My son is a teenager now and I’m careful to not invade his personal space, luckily he still indulges my need to touch.
I’m not someone who relishes being around a lot of people, I despise large crowds and much prefer smaller intimate gatherings. Just as I enjoy the one on one conversations because of the “connecting” factor, I also enjoy innocent touches as well. Sometimes I might touch your shoulder while talking to you, lean my leg against yours while sitting side by side, brush my fingers against yours while passing you a piece of paper or other object. Most of the time you probably won’t even notice or you’ll think it was just an accident- it wasn’t. I need to feel that connection, I need the reassurance, to know that I am not alone.