Last month, my brother and his wife celebrated twenty-eight years of marriage. The weekend of their marriage was one I will never forget.
When I was a child, nobody in my family was really into PDAs; there was not a lot of hugging and kissing, and I don't recall anyone ever saying 'I love you' to another family member.
We were much better at yelling, and especially skilled at insults and other negative comments.
I couldn't even say "Shannon, I love you" out loud - when she was in infant, I whispered it in her ear.
Anyway, I met my future sister-in-law's family two days before the wedding. Cathy has five siblings, all married, and all had children.
And they're New York loud, even when asking if I wanted 'cawfee'.
And boy, can they hug the stuffing out of you. I was welcomed into the family's inner circle in a serious of firm embraces.
The only problem was that I stood there stiffly, my arms at my sides. Six children, six spouses, and Cathy's parents - that's a lot of hugs for someone who isn't used to that type of physical affection. I'm sure I had a 'deer in the headlights' look on my face - if a hole had opened up in the floor, I'd have welcomed the fall.
Some of the nieces and nephews probably hugged me too - it was a blur of names, hellos, smiles, arms and even a few kisses.
I was never so uncomfortable in my entire life. It was an 'aha' moment for me - oh, so this is how normal families behave. Huh.
Boy, did I have a lot to learn.
Lucky for me (and other people I care about), I am no longer the cold, stiff (read emotionally stunted) wallflower that I used to be. I'll even initiate a hug; I tell my husband and my children and grandchildren that I love them whenever I want. I am openly affectionate.
I'm a kinder, gentler human now.
My sister-in-law Cathy still remembers how I used to be - the last time we visited, she hesitated before approaching me for a hug. My response?
"Oh, what the hell!" - and spread my arms open wide.