Happily Even After
by Stacey Noem
How many of you married folks out there hold hands?
My parents were high school sweethearts and I don’t know if that plays into their “patterns of hand holding,” but I have MANY clear memories of them holding hands when I was growing up. And rarely when they were in private, like at home or in the car, but almost always in public.
I remember our parish Fall Festival (shout out to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Dunedin, Florida) when I was growing up. It was held on the last weekend each October, and was probably the two and half day social event of the year when I was in grade school. We lived across the street from the school and church property, so my family would spend a lot of time coming and going to the festival. One of my memories is of the opening Friday night of the festival. I had walked over to meet friends for rides and my parents were coming later. I was on the top of the ferris wheel with a girlfriend when she suddenly calls out, “Aren’t those your parents? Look, they’re holding hands! How swwweeeet! They are SO cuuute.”
Yeah. I can’t say that at that age I thought of it as sweet or cute. But even then I wasn’t embarrassed by it. That type of modest public demonstration of affection and connectedness was just part of who they were as a couple. I remain really grateful for that model of married love. It’s one way of living into being a public witness to the world.
I can’t really remember if Joshua and I were ever big hand holders when we were dating. (I define “big hand holders” as holding hands whenever you are out and about walking together: on campus, going to dinner or movie, etc.). We do still hold hands from time to time now but I think for the most part it is when we are sitting around together at home or in the car. I suppose when we are walking around with the family our hands are needed for other things. Namely, three specific other things…
Holding hands with our children, however, is different. With them, I AM a “big hand holder.” I mean there are definitely times it is all but required to have “control of my child,” like crossing the parking lot or in a store. But I realize I am very prone to holding their hands simply for the pleasure and connection of it.
When they are really little (2-4 years old) I just marvel at how their sweet little hands feel in mine.
At any age I marvel at how willing and eager they are to hold MY hand. I realize that it will not always be that way and I need to treasure it now.
Darling Oscar (big for our family at 9 going on 10) is SO willing and happy to hold my hand. We can be out in the park, at his school, in the store or sitting on the couch and he will happily hold my hand. That boy loves touch.
And don’t we all? I think of when folks reach out to hold each other’s hands during the Our Father at Mass. Sometimes they stretch across the aisles. There is something intimate (but not too much so) in touching hands and holding on to one another, especially in a posture of prayer. The hands are so different: little or big, rough or soft, cold or very warm. Our solidarity in prayer before God is shared…maybe that is what I learned from my parents’ example of hand holding. They were intrinsically proclaiming, “we are one.”
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