The first time I met Dennis's mom, it was the middle of the night.
I had invited myself to their house for Christmas (but that's another story!) and had flown from Dallas to Los Angeles to be with them. Dennis was going to meet me at the airport, but it had been an unusually cold December, and the pass over the mountains was closed to cars due to snow. After exhausting all other options, it was plain that there was only one thing to do: take the bus. The ride was slow and tedious and cattle-car-ish, and by the time I got to his parents' house it was about 3:00 in the morning. I was exhausted.
Dennis, the love-lorn twenty-one-year-old that he was, had stayed up, pining away for me (not really, but I like to think that. Hey, if we'd only had cell phones back then, he could have gotten some shut-eye!). His parents had gone to bed, but when I walked in the door, his folks got out of bed to greet me. His mom literally came running down the hall to meet me. Then, before I knew what was happening, she wrapped me up in a warm hug that I still remember, twenty-four years later.
Here was someone who had never met me, but who had decided already that she loved me and accepted me. And she showed me in a very tangible way. I "felt" her love.
My family was very affectionate, too, so between the two of us, we knew we wanted ours to be a "huggy" family. Maybe it's dorky, but I can't imagine our home life any other way. Which is not to say it doesn't take a little effort. Like vitamins, I've noticed kids (and husbands) might not act like they need hugs, but they do, even when their bodies start changing and their emotions are as fickle as Texas weather. My biggest hugger is Neal-14, who towers over me and tells me he can't wait till he's big enough to wrap his arms around me twice (I suppose that's meant to make me feel safe and secure? I laugh and hug him back and tell him, "I can still take you down." He rolls his eyes.).
Every morning when they wake up, our kids expect hugs. They come stumbling into the kitchen, arms outstretched. Throughout the day, when we're crossing paths, saying hello or saying goodbye, we'll hug. When we're in the car, we'll reach out and hold hands. I'm always amazed at how, even when we've had heated discussions, offering a hug helps say, "Even if we disagree, I still love you." When we get too busy, our kids have been known to sit down and invite us to snuggle. And there is nothing that warms my heart more than to see my kids, unprompted, say, "I love you," and then give each other hugs.
Following the tradition of my precious mother-in-law, I've also decided I want to be a hugger to the kids in our children's lives. Some of them, I know, come from great families. Others are starved for acceptance and affection in any form.
As easy as it is to be affectionate with my own family, outside the home, I tend to be more reserved, so this takes some doing for me. But I want to be that lady who doesn't care how big you are, how small you are, or what disagreements you've had with my child. I don't care if I've known you since you were born, or if it's the middle of the night and we're meeting for the first time (Thank you, Mom. I love you!).
When you see me coming, you'd better brace yourself, because you're going to get hugged!