I want to blame someone for the horrible cold I got last week. My son is first on the list. We met for lunch in the city the week before. He was sneezing and sniffling and suggested we shouldn’t hug hello or goodbye. But how do you not hug someone you love?
Two days later I still felt just fine. Then I worked at the town’s Holiday Art & Craft Sale, where friends and strangers are all in the holiday spirit and shake hands and laugh and sip on warm spiced cider. After each hand I shook I shuttered – how many germs in that one little shake? I’m not mysophobic, although these days we’re all being bombarded with movies and stories and news articles about ‘the big virus epidemic’ sure to come.
How can we not cringe when we’re flying in a steel tube with 200 strangers and the one sitting next to us coughs loud enough to rattle the entire plane? Yuck! Or when we open a door to a bank or restaurant, following the germy handprints of dozens of others? Or when a well-meaning customer comes in to the office with a smile and a warm moist handshake?
But I believe in being friendly, so I don’t give an air pump or a touchless high five to the sweet neighbor who drops by with a plate of cookies, or the fireman who helps me, once again, turn off my smoke alarm. I give hugs.
Some people are now into the ‘touch-free’ hugs. Remember the ‘air kiss,’ a kind of European sweep to one cheek, purse lips but no contact, stand back and move to the other cheek? I see friends, mostly female, air kiss all the time. Maybe it’s the new hug of the future. Maybe it’s not a bad idea.
But it looks …. Unfriendly. Dare I even say, kind of fake?
Ahhh, now I realize who I need to blame for my horrible terrible no-good sneezing coughing sore-throat cold.
My sweet runny-nosed 18-month-old grandson.
Now he knows how to greet someone and make them feel special. Just a year and a half into this world, he’s figured out that to melt the heart of a human and own her forever, give her a kiss and a hug. But he doesn’t give them out indiscriminately. If you’ve shown him a good time, and maybe read him a book, played race car demon with him for an hour, and offered him a warm gooey chocolate chip cookie, then he dispenses that most precious reward.
The only problem is that he hasn’t figured out how to kiss close-mouthed.
So yes, I spent some time with the toddler on the Friday before ‘the cold,’ and when it was time for him to go home, he opened up his little arms and said, ‘me me kee,’ (interpreted as “Pammy, Kiss!”). While his mother held him, he leaned way out toward me and met my lips with a large wet “O” of a baby mouth. After a happy loud ‘MOWM’ sound, as if he’d just eaten a piece of high-end dark chocolate, he leaned back into his mom’s arms with an expression of serenity and happiness.
Did I mention he had a cold?
But I wouldn’t give up that open-mouthed kiss for all the germ-free touchless hugs in the world.