It’s that first hug of a long-separated relative that jolts muscle memory.
It had been more than seven months since I wrapped my arms around any of my grandchildren and their parents. That drought of togetherness ended last Thursday afternoon. Gilda and I made our first pandemic-period overnight trip since last August so we could celebrate Passover together with Dan, Allison and their kids, Finley and Dagny, in their Massachusetts home.
As much as we cherished their closeness, though, we continued to long for contact with Ellie and her family in Omaha. We had to settle on their being part of a zoom seder Saturday night, one of the highlights being nearly six-year-old CJ chanting the “mah nishtana” four questions, with some accompaniment by three-year-old Leo and their dad, Donny.
As much as I longed for more and more hugs, not everyone in our family is a hugger. I don’t say that critically. Just factually. I wasn’t a big hugger growing up or in adulthood, until it became common among my close male friends to hug on occasions both happy and sad. Sometimes even with a kiss on the cheeks.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if I lacked hugs from Gilda during the pandemic. It’s just that hugs from children and grandchildren are different. There’s simple, whimsical joy to snuggling a toddler, to cuddling up next to a single-digit youngster when reading to them in bed or on a couch.
Finley and Dagny border on the age of hugging indifference. Finley’s 11 and a third. Dagny will be nine in July. I think they knew we wanted to hug. They more than tolerated our needs.
For several days Gilda and I crammed in activities we were denied by quarantine. We read books with them before bedtime. We watched them play, ride their bikes. We played cards and badminton. We marveled at how tall they have grown. Finley is 5’1”; his father was six inches shorter at his age.
Gilda cooked Friday night shabbat dinner and Saturday night’s “mandatory” seder brisket. Saturday morning Dan and I prepared French toast with the last of the pre-holiday challah.
Before we returned to White Plains I lingered in goodbye hugs with Finley, Dagny and Allison, spending even more time in Dan’s embrace. I kissed his neck.