Friday, a child who isn’t mine hugged me as if she were. When I let my arms fall away from the bear hug around her lanky 10-year-old frame, hers remained so tightly wound across my rib cage and back that I couldn’t move if I wanted to without taking her with me. A blue sash level student of mine who’s leaving for six weeks of summer camp out of state isn’t just going to miss Kung Fu; she’s specifically going to miss me. I didn’t expect it and don’t know if I deserve it, but it was a most welcomed surprise.
“I miss,” are two words I find myself saying more often than I’d like. The most recent family funeral three weeks ago was a goodbye to the last of the four women – two aunts, a grandmother and my mother – most responsible for my character and my better childhood memories. But it isn’t just the dead I miss. It’s also the remarkable young man I raised who no longer lives in my house, and the eccentric, now-teenaged girl who stopped dancing in the car years ago. I miss the former colleagues who only kept in touch when my departure from the office was new. And I miss remembering with ease where I left my glasses – or simply what day it is.
There is nothing new, of course, about middle aged people bemoaning the passage of time and the unwanted changes it brings. There’s nothing new about melancholy accompanying loss. And perhaps the most familiar remedy of life for ridding me of any hint of self-pity is the embrace of a family member. So there’s nothing new in the comfort of a hug either.
But there was something new in having a child who isn’t mine hug me as if she were. It gave “I miss” a happy meaning for the first time in recent memory.