I’ve never been big on hugging, especially people I hardly know. Hugging seems to be required at weddings and funerals these days. Sometimes I have more body contact with people I just met than I did on most of my first dates when I was single. I swear I went to a wedding once where I had to hug the bride, all the bridesmaids, the mothers of the groom and bride, the caterer, photographer and some elderly Asian woman who happened to be walking her Pekinese by the church. It surprised her, but she gave me her phone number–just kidding.
Some families are big on hugging and some hardly hug at all. My father’s family didn’t hug. They were proper German Baptists and teetotalers. The women tried to hug sometimes. They would grasp each other tightly by the elbows, to make sure they couldn’t get too close to each other, and then lean their faces forward until their cheeks almost touched. It was as close as you could get to hugging someone without actually touching them. The men never hugged. If you ever saw two men in my father’s family hug, you could bet everything you owned that one of them had just scored the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. The family gatherings were quiet and reserved. A joke would get you a smile. A really funny joke would get you a really wide smile.
My mother’s family hugged a lot. They were Bohemian Catholics and drank beer. I f we went to a family gathering, you could be guaranteed to be hugged about sixty billion times. And they were big smothering bear hugs that left you gasping for air. The whole gathering would be loud with bursts of laughter billowing out and people shouting from table to table. My father always seemed a little uncomfortable with all the hugging, but he endured it, and I actually think he enjoyed going to my mother’s family gatherings more than he did to his own. I know I did.
The combination of the two families made our family interesting. We weren’t big huggers, but we were loud and there was a lot of laughter when we got together. We gave each other a bad time, nothing that had happened in the past was off limits. I’ve heard a thousand times about the time my sisters tried to hang me, and the time I got hit on the head with a hammer (it explains a lot, doesn’t it?) When we started bringing girlfriends and boyfriends home, they were amazed that we could verbally torment each other so completely and still get along. I’ve known families where a brother said the wrong thing to a sister and they didn’t talk for decades.
Now that we’re grown and our mother and father are gone, we don’t see as much of each other as we used too. But even now when we get together, we don’t hug. We still give each other a bad time, and if something happens to one of us, the family rallies together for support. I guess that’s our way of hugging.
Last year my brother had a heart attack. His heart actually stopped, and for a few moments he was dead before they shocked him and brought him back to life. When I went to the hospital to see him, I was relieved to find he’d be alright and his heart didn’t have major damage. I should probably have given him a hug, but he was in no condition to try to score a touchdown.