I remember being little. Climbing into my mother’s embrace. Snuggling there against her heartbeat and breath. I remember feeling scared in the middle of the night. I would find my way to my parents’ bedroom, their cozy nest, and press up against warm bodies while the TV flickered in the dark room, its light dimming gradually as I managed to find calm there and sleep. Sometimes, when I was a little older, on the verge of too-old-for-such-things, I cried. Not too loudly, a surface attempt at courtesy, but not entirely quietly enough not to be heard at all, knowing that if I was, someone would come.
In my early teens, I slept with stuffed animals and a security blanket. I used to wrap one of the larger teddy bears in the blanket and pretend it was someone. Someone I “liked” in that way that you “like” someone when you start having those feelings you don’t know what else to do with. Someone cute from the movies, a band, that television show. Some distant future lover with vague features and a me-shaped place in his arms.
In high school, I became a drama freak. A choir geek. One of those touchy-feely artist types. A group formed. Ties became stronger. We shoved too many bodies into back seats of cars. We piled on beds and wrestled in my basement. We shared touch. Back rubs. Embraces. Whispers in the dark. We hugged hello. We hugged goodnight. Arms pulled chest to chest. We reached. We held. We broke. We healed by holding again.
It seems like there’s a pretty strong need in me. In others that have surrounded me. We are physical with those who care for us, we find comfort in each other’s embraces. It’s not sexual, not generally, though with that right person, sex is a factor, but it’s more about the personal connection that can only be found and expressed through skin against skin, bodies wrapped together. A comforting heat.
Watching my son grow from this tiny, helpless thing into the beginnings of a little boy with a will and spirit all his own, I see him needing the same thing I always have, a thing that I’m starting to notice maybe we all just need on that basic and animal level to thrive. As a baby, he needed to be close to me. I held him all the time. I held him because I needed to hold him and he needed me. He slept next to my body at night and dozed on my lap or my chest during the day. This felt right, despite warnings that he might be getting spoiled by all that physical closeness. This is how I protected him. How I showed him that I would meet his needs. I didn’t consciously begin to think that perhaps one of his strongest and most primal needs was merely the proximity itself. The touch. The contact. Being close.
Now that he is getting older, bigger and more curious, his walking often leads him away from me. He goes in all directions seemingly at once. But I am still the touchstone. I still have these open arms, a loving embrace to return to when things get difficult, painful or overwhelming. And now he is so strong. He grabs and pulls me close. Pulls his daddy close. He wraps us up in his little arms and waits for us to twine our own entirely around him, enfolding him in a love language that he is not too young to understand.
The best parts of my days are bedtimes and morning rising. I am lucky enough to have that warm body next to me, my husband, in my bed all night long. In the morning, M comes in to join us, and for a few sweet minutes, he is still against me or between his two parents, before climbing, flopping or jumping all over the bed and our prone bodies, the need to move and go and run and explore overpowering his need to linger in that sweet moment of holding. Though there are an infinite number of ways we show our love and enthusiasm for each other throughout the day and night, those sweet and tender touches are where we speak love best.
I am so grateful for all who hold me. I hope that everyone I’ve held has found something that they have needed there, too.