June 14, 2011

RemembeRED: Affection

Embracing Family

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.


  1. I didn't grow up with huggers and have grown more relaxed in my hugging over the years as well. I was interested in the line...boy, did I have a lot to learn. It left me wondering what you learned and how you came to be more open to the hugging over time.

  2. This post is so honest, so vulnerable.

    I love this line: "And boy, can they hug the stuffing out of you." That's exactly how it feels if it's new.

    It's simple, direct, I get you here. And that's really what or writing is about, isn't it? Well done!

  3. I can relate. My parents were not obnoxious, abusive, just not huggers. My kids were little when I realized other families HUG hello and goodbye. I made my uncomfortable self start doing it, and I saw the discomfort in other family members (aunts and cousins).

  4. Very nicely done! I love the contrast between families. I love your ending: oh what the hell.

  5. Hey Junie! Sorry I haven't been by in so long. I keep seeing your post titles in my blog list, and I promise myself I'll stop when I have enough time to give your blog all the attention it deserves...but guess what? As you can see, that hasn't been happenin'! xoxo >> I'm sending you a virtual hug! My family was always big on hugs, kisses, I love you's, etc. So I'm in the group of folks that can't figure out why in the world some people don't want to/don't like to hug!! Hope to see you soon....and whenever that is...we'll give each other a big ol' bear hug!!

  6. You covey so effectively in your piece how "uncomfortable" overt affection was for you.

    It was so nice to read how the people who you came to care about helped change and opened your life and your heart forever.


  7. My uncle's family is like that.....a big, noisy, New York, hugging bunch! Even though I have met them several times, I'm still not used to it. But they are so sweet and kind, and really do make you feel like you belong (even when I stand there stiff and slightly scared!)

  8. As always, wonderfully said. A lovely combination of funny, snark, truth and real emotion.

  9. That is kind of how my husband is. I think it's because he lost his parents when he was so young. If one of my family members goes to hug him, he gets all stiff. But he's never been that way with me or my kids or grandkids. Just those that he won't let into his circle.

    Good to know, that if I ever have the pleasure of meeting you, I will be able to give you a hug.

  10. We are huggers in my family...we would squeeze you to death!!

  11. this was a really realistic look into your life, and i love how you understood that you were somewhat emotionally stunted and have grown. thank you for linking up with this!!

  12. i remember feeling like when visiting my italian relatives...a deer in the headlights...exactly.
    I'm a hugger now lol

  13. I had the same reaction to my New York in laws. Why are you kissing me!


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