Historical Hugs

Human to human hugs are sparse around here at the best of times, and these may or may not be the best of times (something we don’t seem to understand until they’ve passed), but human to dog hugs are pretty common. I guess science has determined that we need that kind of contact with our kind in order to remain mentally healthy. I remember back in the 70s when “hug therapy” became a thing. People would stand around wearing signs that said, “Free hugs.” Paying for hugs seems a little sketchy anyway. The last time I saw such a sign wasn’t that long ago, maybe 2003. A young guy wearing the sign was on the pier at Pacific Beach in San Diego.

But why did it become a thing? I can surmise that it was partly because my parents’ generation was a LOT less “touchy feely” than people are today. Some of my mom’s sisters (and my mom) would even say, “No, I’m not a hugger.” Because of this, some of the hugs with my aunts were definitely memorable, like the ONLY time I remember hugging my Aunt Dickie, for example. It was the late 1970s and my Aunt Kelly had died in New Mexico. The Montanans (Aunt Dickie and Uncle Stocky) drove to Denver in their RV to gather my mom and my Aunt Martha to head down for the funeral. I was at my mom’s house to lock the door behind them and take care of my mom’s heroic little miniature poodle, Misty. When my Aunt Dickie came into the house, she made a beeline for me, wrapped her arms around me, and said, “I’m so sad about Kelly.” “Huh?” I thought. Besides not hugging, they did not say how they felt about things. I wondered, “Why me?” That hug was unforgettable. It was in those moments that I realized how my Aunt Dickie felt about me and that proved to be true clear to the end of her life. Hugs from those people were a kind of honor.

One of my more recent hugs was a virtual hug on Christmas Eve from my step-granddaughter who was talking to me on her TV screen. I was talking to her on my phone so it was impossible to return the hug and I didn’t even know why she was rushing at me like that. “What was that?” I asked her mom.

“She hugged you,” said my step-daughter-in-law cracking up.

Last year at the Monte Vista Crane Festival at the Education and Craft Fair I experienced a veritable orgy of hugging. The neighborhood is vast and friends can be far-flung. That event is a giant valley-wide reunion and I got to see lots of people (five) I like very much but seldom see in real life. There was much satisfying hugging and catching up. I think that’s why, yesterday, when I learned that the Crane Festival would be virtual — which wasn’t surprising — I felt very sad. I think I had my hardest Covid experience in those moments. Until this year, the Crane Festival has meant my friend Lois comes from Colorado Springs and we have a great weekend of cranes, craft fair, seeing rescued raptors, conversation plus seeing friends from all over the Valley. It is easily my most “human contact” weekend of the year.


26 thoughts on “Historical Hugs

  1. Sorry about the Crane Festival. This has gone on so much longer than any of us imagined. Ophelia and I send virtual hugs.

    • You’re right — even though I knew I wouldn’t be vaccinated until March (how I knew that I have no idea) on the visceral level, I didn’t “think” this would be as long as it’s been. So strange. We all send hugs to you and Ophelia and Bear wants to tell Ophelia to enjoy the snow. ❤

      • Thanks for the hugs. Ophelia whines, “Bear, it is awful, my human hasn’t taken me for a walk in a whole week. Quick trips to the backyard is all I’m allowed. Help!” Ophelia neglects to mention she refuses to put on her booties. We have been in an extreme cold warning now for a week (temps in the -30’s and -40’s with windchill). Some end in sight next week, I hope.

        • “Hi Ophelia! Martha has been putting a boot on my hurt foot for a few weeks now. It’s not so bad.” Yr Pal, Teddy T. Dog.

          “Ophelia, that’s too cold” Yr Pal, Martha

          That continuous -40 is grueling. We don’t get that level of cold for long stretches down here, but my mom dealt with that in Montana. It was harsh. One year I was up there and it was -30 for days on end in the Yellowstone valley, but up on the mountains it was normal winter temps — total inversion. I hope the weather breaks soon.

          • Thanks Teddy, I told Ophelia, but she is skeptical! Thanks Martha. We are on our Feb. break here, so I am hoping it warms up enough to do a little snowshoeing later in the week!

  2. I grew up in a family that did not physically express emotions — I had to learn to hug as an expression of friendship. I’m finding during all the shutdown warnings about distancing, etc., whether or not to hug has actually become a little awkward! It’s one of the things I miss most during this pandemic time!

    • I have actually hugged a few people during this. The kids (of course) but a couple of grown up friends. But what I notice is that it feels a little strange, like it’s no longer a simple, spontaneous gesture it’s much more.

  3. Touch and hugs matter. I am missing the regular contact. You may be familiar with the romanian (I think) orphanage study. They had so many infants that all they could do was prop bottles and minimal contact for diaper change, etc. The death rate from failure to thrive was very high. Now, even in the NICU with incredibly ill preemies and infants, the nurses hold them, and they often have trained volunteers in to provide essential human contact.

    • I thought I wasn’t missing it, but yesterday, somehow, the news about the Crane Festival (which I expected) hit me really hard. I cried. The whole 500k lives-lost tragedy of Covid hit me with that small blip in my little life. I then posted my big crane painting on the Crane Festival FB page and got a tremendous response and realized how much things like that festival mean to people, not just me. Just as the cranes gather in the spring (to be close to each other) certain people flock here every year. I sold a lot of notecards, but the coolest part was hearing from people who come down here and will miss it. I guess that evolved into a small crane festival in its own way.

      • that’s an interesting discovery. I’m signed up for the virtual festival. I also share your experience that seemingly small and expected losses/changes can tap into the bigger losses and grief we’re dealing with. Love that your cards sold out.

        • Oh Steph! That’s great you signed up. I was so sad and then I thought of all the people I can now share it with and it didn’t seem so bad. 🙂 Maybe next year you can come down for real life cranes.

  4. Leo Buscaglia was my hero. He advocated a minimum of 5 hugs a day to survive, 8 hugs to maintain mental and physical well-being and 12 hugs needed to thrive. I am not a touchy-feeling person but the hugs changed things – especially Sparky’s family. They are all huggers. They hug hello and goodbye! For sure COVID has put a kink in the hugging but soon, very soon (I hope) hugging will be back on the agenda. Until then hugs from those in our personal bubble will have to suffice. Luckily you have 2 furry companions who do not object to hugs…

  5. My family of origin was not a hugging group. Touch was accidental or worse. (Like a contest to see who can hit the softest – you go first…I lose!) When I left for Nicaragua on Christmas Day, they lined up at the door to hug me. I was pleased but puzzled. On the bus to O’Hare, I realized they hugged me because they thought that might be the last time they saw me alive. When I made it back, they probably thought they had wasted a hug.

    • This experience has shown us all a lot of things we weren’t completely aware of. I’m neither hugger nor non-hugger, but I can see when a friend REALLY needs a hug. It’s a sad thing to witness, they stand there in a kind of blankness, waiting and not sure. It’s one of the small sad things this period has wrought.

Comments are closed.