The Importance of Hugs

I never knew the importance of hugs until covid-19 kept us six feet apart. My hug-o-meter is on E. Running on fumes. Easily angered or on the brink of tears watching American Idol.

Yesterday, I graduated from Smith College. The commencement–a day of pomp and circumstance–took place outside my house on the deck. My husband set up a big screen TV to help give me the feeling of being at a real commencement. Soft breezes nudging my thin black gown.

Like many graduation ceremonies this May 2020, it was virtual. No picking up my sister at the airport. No making beds for my daughter and two granddaughters to stay a night or two. I felt un-tethered, texting them to make sure they didn’t miss the flash of my photo and name on the screen.

Names and faces flew by at record speed. No walking up the stairs and across the stage to exchange handshakes for well-deserved diplomas. No flashing cameras held by proud and teary parents. At the end, my husband videotaped me as I threw the mortar board up, into the backyard.

I felt the absence of my parents more deeply than the respective days they died. I’m 64. Still hoping they’re proud of me. Still wanting Mom to help me don my regalia. Maybe it was their spiritual presence that overwhelmed me with grief as I dressed in the bedroom alone before the big event. No hugs.

When the commencement ended, I ceremoniously moved my tassel from right to left. They never instructed us when to do so. I guess they assumed it would just be done. But we were watching from all parts of the globe at different times of the day and night. I felt disconnected. There was no patchwork of live faces on the screen–like on American Idol–with whom to share this rite of passage.

When the screen turned blue, we packed up wires and tissue boxes, went in the house, and watched TV. But not before I got a hug from my husband who said, “I’m so proud of you.”

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