I’ll kiss anyone. (Or at least, I’ll air-kiss anyone.) I’m pretty comfortable with greeting friends, family and even strangers with a hug rather than a handshake. (I find the hug much more comfortable in most cases.) New Englanders are often stereotyped as being as cold as their winters when it comes to personal greetings. But I challenge that assumption. At our local general store in Norwich, I can’t seem to leave without at least one hug. (It’s a blessing to live in a small town where you can’t buy toothpaste without bumping into a friend.) Yet, there is one gesture of intimacy I save for special moments: the hand squeeze.
Holding hands is clearly a sign of intimacy. But the hand squeeze during the hand hold is something significant. It can convey everything from excitement to sadness, delight to support. And since it’s a gentle act, it can pass in a quick moment, unbeknownst to outsiders.
Some of the most important moments of my life have been preluded or concluded with a hand squeeze. The boyfriend who squeezed my hand before dropping to a knee. The sister who squeezed my hand before the big ski race. The friend who squeezed my hand before my big speech. A hug was not enough for those moments. We needed something a little more special, a little more private, a little more meaningful.
And I’m conservative with my hand squeezes. Too many hand squeezes cheapen their meaning. They are the quiet “I Love You” before a sister walks down the aisle. They are the silent “Go Get ‘Em” when a husband drops off his wife at her new job. They offer a powerful message of “I’m With You” when a loved one takes a final breath. They have multiple meanings…but they are always significant.
September will bring a lot of hand squeezes in the Upper Valley. As the air cools and the leaves redden, we’ll embrace this time of change and new beginnings. We’ll go back to school, back to the field, back to sweaters, back to early bedtimes. We’ll rely on each other to get us back to the grind, the routine, the unknown. And so fathers will squeeze their daughters hands before dropping them off at kindergarten. Moms will give their sons one last squeeze before watching them board the school bus. Friends will squeeze the hands of friends as they watch the winning field goal attempt.
As for me, I’m anticipating my own special hand squeeze this September. I’m nine months pregnant and thinking a lot about the little creature in my belly. I know that the first months will be hard, wonderful, surprising, and a bit of a blur. But I look forward to the moment when that little human grabs my finger in a loving clench. It will most likely be our first physical entanglement, warm, wonderful, and supportive. The first hand squeeze from my son/daughter will bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.
Bring on the squeezes.