The Power of a Hug

Sometimes when trying to embrace change, it helps to embrace each other.


I come from a family of huggers.

We hug hello. We hug goodbye. And sometimes, we hug just for the hell of it.

I’ve passed this condition on to most of my friends. Hugging after spending time together, whether walking, talking or perfecting the art of fine dining.

And I’ve been known to hug online friends when meeting them for the first time.

But I do have a hugging boundary line.

I don’t want to hug my dentist, especially after he’s charged me a sum greater than my mortgage payment for probing and prodding my gums.

I don’t need to hug the sales clerk for finding me the last pair of jeans in my size. Nor do I feel obliged to hug the pizza guy for delivering our dinner on time.

So, why did I feel the urge to hug the burly Salvation Army worker who loaded my mom’s sofa onto his truck?

It had been a few months since my mom had left her home and moved into a retirement village. Little by little, we cleared out her things.

Some which were just that—simply old things: dusty sheets tucked into the back of linen closets, old brooms and mops, financial papers prepared on IBM Selectrics.

But the majority of her belongings did not fall into that category. Each item had a story to tell.

That book! I remember that one. It was the summer my daughter was born and Mom read it while we sat around the pool, listening to the whirring sounds coming from my father’s workshop.

Those plates. We used these the Passover Aunt Lil slipped under the table from too much wine.

All the empty coffee cans. I can’t even count how many times I filled them with Hamentashens for our friends and family.

To stop and remember everything would have taken us years. And throughout it all, my mom remained stoic, with a smile on her face.

Until the day that kind hearted Salvation Army employee looked at her and said, “Ma’am, are you okay?”

No, she shook her head. And broke down into tears. Tears, she needed to shed. Tears I had been waiting for.

And right then I wanted to hug that sweet man. (Of course, I didn’t.) But still. He had given my mom permission to let it all out. It was like that phenomenon of telling a perfect stranger your life story. A safe, secure place.

The sofa was the last piece of furniture to leave the house.

I was the last person.

Before locking the doors, I took a moment to breathe in the memories.

Perhaps, the new owners will hear giggles coming from the pool, late at night. And glasses clinking at sunset. They may smell steaks grilling, mixed with the scent of sawdust and baby oil.

And perhaps they may feel a tightening of their hearts. As if people were slipping through them, ghostlike.

Giving each other hugs.

Janie Emaus is the author of the time travel romance, Before the After, the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love, and a co-author of In the Powder Room’s hilarious best-selling anthology You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth. Janie blogs for The Huffington Post, Purple Clover, The Mid and Midlife Blvd. She is proud to be named a 2013 BlogHer Voice of the Year. Janie believes that when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. To learn more about Janie visit her blog and her author website

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