By Anne Maxwell
Author of Grace in Ordinary Time
My Mom took a particular card that she’d received congratulating our family on the birth of my baby brother when she resumed teaching her sixth grade class following maternity leave.
The front of the card featured a photo of a baby’s hand clutching a manicured mother’s finger against a soft blue blanket in his tiny grip. Above the image was the simple message: A baby’s hand can touch so much.
As she slid the card under the glass top of her weathered desk, I asked why she had selected that card for display.
“It’s just something I need to keep in mind,” she had told me.
Touch. Human touch. It’s not something I normally think about. Rather, it’s something I act on. I come from a long line of huggers on my mom’s side of the family.
We hug when we’re happy.
Or when we’re excited.
When we’re sad.
And, for no particular reason at all. Yes, we’re a touchy-feely kind of a crew.
Less touching and more social distancing has been a bit difficult. I miss the expression of love and friendship, but just more than that, there’s the physical reality that comes with touch. As all of us proclaimed huggers know, it’s not just the emotion of an embrace, it’s the physical sensation of a hug. Think of it this way: if you’re cold, you can wrap your arms around yourself in an attempt to generate warmth, or you can snuggle up in a blanket. “I care about you” or “I love you” wards off any chill, but it’s the added layer of a hug that generates warmth in the soul.
It was evident while sitting next to my 3-year-old niece Anna in the backseat of her family’s new car recently. We were singing (ok, she was singing the Fireman Sam theme song over and over) during the drive and discussing her favorite color. I’m all about red, she’s strictly team blue. No matter which hue we praised or tune we raised, I focused on taking in the moment, as I thought “things truly don’t get much better than this.” Then, suddenly, mid-refrain, she reached over, grabbed my hand, and wrapped her fingers in mine.
And at that moment, things did get even better.
Slowly, but surely, she squeezed our melded hands together, looked at me, and smiled. My heart swelled, and the phrase from that card so many years ago came to mind.
A baby’s hand can touch so much …
The car turned down the long driveway back home, the song ended, we unbuckled. As suddenly as she had grabbed my hand, she released it, ready to run around the yard in yet another attempt to capture a farm kitten. As I helped her get out, I thanked her for holding “Auntie Anne’s” hand and treating me to a ride in her new car.
“It’s nothing,” she responded with a gentle wave of her wrist, nailing one of the many cute adult-like expressions she easily commands.
I smiled at her, gave her a hug, but had to disagree.
It was everything.
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