A Propensity to Hug and Coronavirus

By Jesus Arencibia  (El Toque)

Foto: Jesus Arencibia.

HAVANA TIMES – My child has definitely taken his good time to do things. When he was supposed to be out screaming in the real world, he was cut out by force, after 41 weeks and two days of synchronized swimming in his mother’s tummy.

Then, while other children his age were standing up in their cribs, he was still sitting comfortably. Other children his age were already crawling and he was dragging himself in his own very unique way, which didn’t really get him very far. The others would then start walking and he discovered the joy of crawling, at almost 14 months old. The young kids on the block were beginning to run around and he had only started walking when he was 16 months…

It’s been the same thing with his talking: he understands everything and points things out (if he thinks its appropriate), but he has three or four words in his bag that he can shoot left, right and center: “mamamama”, “papapapa”, “milk”, “give me” and the magic word: “Aaaaaaahhh!” (accompanied by a finger pointing to what he wants or hitting it).

However, there is a skill in his heart that nobody had to teach him as soon as he started walking: the language of hugging.

It’s not like he goes around giving them to anyone either mind you – he doesn’t give them to adults, for example – but he goes up to other kids the same size as him with unbridled euphoria. He brings them close to his chest and squeezes them laughing, and it seems that he has found absolute happiness in that moment, at least that’s what it looks like in his father’s foolish eyes.

He has done this to Osmelito, Osmin and Yamilia’s youngest, who is blond and a little nervous, who in the face of such a “threatening” hugger, opens his eyes wide and runs off to find refuge with his mother.

The same thing has happened with Yulian, Mirlanys and Yurien’s “cheeky one” with curly hair. When my son sees him, he begins to laugh and he spreads out his arms. The other one stands still, lets my son hug him, but he creases his forehead as if to say: “What’s got into this crazy kid?”

When Claudia, his mother, takes him to the doctor’s clinic, which is about 300 meters away from home, he does the same thing. And they have to leave at least half an hour before the appointment, so he can hug all the little ones he knows and doesn’t know on his way, in a great big hug fest.

On March 3rd, when the Coronavirus pandemic was just a bad dream still in Cuba, we went out with him to a beautiful park, with statues and animals. He met Veronica there, a beautiful little lady who, in spite of being six months his elder, was about the same size as him. He made a bow to her, in the gentlemanly fashion of “Miss, will you give me the honor of hugging you?” She looked at her mother. Her mother nodded. And three or four hugs later, they were playmates.

If Eduardo Galeano waited almost 50 years of his life to write “El libro de los abrazos”, my loving Ernesto has learned this universal and infallible language, in just 18 months. Maybe this is why he speaks so little.

Paraphrasing Fina Garcia Marruz: It’s not that he can’t speak: he has hugging.

Nevertheless, for his own health and the health of the “small crazy ones” on the block, lockdown has been in place for weeks now. Without “victims” of his own size in his operating range, and without any opportunities to go out or share (which will still carry on for a while yet), his propensity for hugging has been fading away.

In the end – sad, but realistic consolation -, while he is managing to communicate better with articulate language every day, he will also learn to keep his distance, to keep himself far (enough) away from others. This is also a lesson of growing up.

Although… who knows, it would be nice to dream that the world he lives in as an adult will have learned something about pandemics and be more willing to give sincere affection. The “small death” of a hug.



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