Walking out the back door, I shouted, “Girls, I’m going for a walk.”
From the living room I heard the thump of feet on the floor and the television being switched off as fourteen-year-old Niki and ten-year-old Tammie chorused, “We want to come, too!”
By the time I reached the end of the driveway, my daughters had caught up with me. The early fall evening sunshine was glorious and the sky a clear, deep blue. Crossing the bridge over the river, we headed up hill. Along the road were young poplars, their leaves quivering in the slight breeze. The sound they made was a murmuring background to my daughter’s chatter.
As we approached a culvert along the road, we heard a gurgling trickle of water. Many weeds grew in this damp ditch. I spotted one that was blooming and gingerly stepped over to pick one of its stems. I instructed my daughters, “This is a jewel weed. As kids, my friends and I called them ‘touch-me-not’ weeds. Look at their pretty orange blossoms. When their blossoms get old, they turn into seed pods.” Pointing to a fat, green pod on one of the branches I exclaimed, “Like that one!”
Tammie looked closely at the pod. Niki was leaning over her shoulder to see. I encouraged, “Touch the seed pod, Tammie.” The minute her finger touched it, the walls of the pod sprung open and the seeds within went flying in all directions. Tammie let out a small scream of surprise. I laughed.
Continuing on with our walk, Niki shared with me how school was going for her as a freshman. She urgently informed me, “In my health class we were told that people need to be touched in order to live and be healthy.” After a short pause she questioned, “Mom, why don’t you ever hug Grammie? She needs hugs so she can live long and be healthy.”
Surprised, I defensively explained, “Once I turned ten years of age, it seemed as if I’d outgrown that. I could tell Mom and Daddy loved me, but they just stopped hugging me about then…”
Niki urgently exclaimed, “Mom, we have to start hugging Grammie when we visit her. She needs hugs. The teacher and the text book said so!”
I loved hugging my children, but at age 42, with my daughter’s prompting, I began to hug my aging mother during our frequent visits. At first it felt awkward, but I think Mom grew to enjoy it.
My memories of Niki telling me what she was learning in freshman health class came back to me in a rush with our recent introduction to pandemic precautions. Shaking hands is discouraged. Touching doorknobs and anything else that other people touch increases the risk of being infected. If we do get contaminated with the virus, we could infect ourselves by touching our mouth, nose or eyes. Frequent and through hand washing is absolutely necessary.
Our busy, carefree lifestyles, moving from one store to another, attending plays, sport events, bars and classes quickly came to a screeching halt. We can’t totally stop the virus from spreading, but we need to slow down the spread so health care can keep up.
Hunkering down at home, unable to attend events, fearing what feels like the plague makes some people feel alone and isolated. In the news there seems to be nothing but bad things to hear regarding COVID 19 deaths, shortages and financial ruin resulting from business closings.
A hug right about now sure would be nice, but isn’t possible because one of us might be contagious! The pandemic won’t last forever, but right now no one sees the end in sight. Some people have a small, niggling paranoia that something more; something worse is on the horizon waiting to spring upon us.
While on that walk with my daughters back in 1992, we made several trips into the ditch to pick jewel weed stems. Like jack-in-the-boxes, one gentle touch made the pods abruptly spring open. We loved and were delighted by each surprising seed explosion. I’m looking forward to the time when hugging is legal again!