I’m a hugger. Growing up in an Italian family, hugging was the first thing you did when greeting relatives and friends. When meeting a stranger for the first time, the 2-minute rule applied…talk for two minutes and then hug!

Hugging is an expression of affection, love and friendship unless of course, you were my Uncle Guido. He hugged just to make sure the other person wasn’t packing…if you know what I mean. Hugging was his way of practicing the old saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Happily, he was the exception to the rule…even in our family.

In the unique time of COVID, common expressions of affection like hugging, patting, kissing, and handshaking were put on hold. We were asked to ‘socially distance’ ourselves from others and with good reason. The ‘logic’ of not hugging however, did not override the ‘need’ to hug. Of course, Jeff and I were free to hug each other, having been quarantined together for 36 years! I have to admit, that even Jeff, my mild manner, salt of the earth husband, reached a ‘hugging overload’ point during the ‘COVID’ quarantine period. Me, on the other hand, constantly went through hugging ‘withdrawal’.

So why is hugging so essential? The word ‘hug’ is believed to come from the Old Norse language. It appeared approximately 450 years ago in Scandinavia as the word ‘hugga’ meaning ‘to comfort’. The history of ‘hugging’ as an act of affection has many ‘suggested’ histories but nothing that’s carved in marble…or provable.

One of my dearest and most loved girlfriends was more concerned about touching, kissing, hugging and other COVID-forbidden tactile signs of affection than I was. At first, I tried to convince her to be cautious rather than crazy and then I realized that I was doing her a disservice. Everyone, EVERYONE had a right to their feeling, thinking and reaction to COVID and it was her right to react the way she did and my responsibility to respect her decision. In the midst of COVID, her birthday was coming up and she agreed to have dinner at our home, as long as it was outside on the deck, we wore masks and remained socially distant. All was doable. All was done. At the end of the evening, she looked at me and said, “I really miss our hugs.” We stood there, with tears in our eyes, staring at each other – 6’feet apart, when it hit me – OH SHEET! I ran to the linen closet, pulled out a clean sheet, and ran back fully draped in the sheet. Casper the friendly ghost would have been proud as I weaved between the furniture and avoided falling down the stairs. I stood 6’ away and my friend, feeling safe, came over and we hugged. It was the BEST hug ever. We laughed, cried and discovered a safe hug approach. Time has marched on. Vaccines were discovered, we all got inoculated and hugs are again, a regular part of our greeting.

AS humans, we need physical contact. Whether you’re a hundred hug a day person or just one, find a way to stay connected during all times…good and bad.

As Dan Pearce, author of the blog, Single Dad Laughing said, “Some moments can only be cured with a big squishy grandma hug.”

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