My daughters do it, naturally.
My sons too.
On long walks, in parking lots, while running across a playground, during tense scenes in a movie, while sitting beside me in church, while jumping up and down, while passing through the automatic doors of Walmart. It’s a gentle, sometimes subconscious, act of togetherness.
Yesterday, we had a friend with us at the store, a boy between Alex and Asher’s ages. As we walked across the parking lot, I glanced down to see he and Asher, hands held tightly.
It’s such a terribly simple and natural act, reaching out and clasping hands, kids do it without even thinking.
We’re not alone, here, in this parking lot, here in this playground, here, in this moment of uncertainty we’re walking through, we’re together.
In the car, I’ll reach over to hold Vinnie’s hand. It’s connecting and togetherness, but it’s also figuring out exactly how and where our elbows can rest while making the stretch across the console. It’s turning our palms over on top of each other, adjusting for comfort. It’s sometimes wondering and over-thinking the whole process to the point that it’s just that, a process. Here, let me show you my affection – insert hand into hand and wait for the slow song on the radio to end.
But, if we just sit long enough, with our hands together, the thoughts will slow down and the songs on the radio will blur into background music, while my thumb traces the skin and veins on the back of his hand, and we’re just, us. Together in the front seats of a minivan with a gaggle of kids strapped in behind us, asking if they can have a donut the next time we stop for coffee.
Onward we go, into the great unknown.
And the thing of it is, I like holding hands. In terms of affection, I need it.
Kissing says, I want you.
Hand holding says, I’m with you.
And in marriage, in family and in friendships, I want to be with the ones that I love.
But, I’m not six or seven or a child at all, and here in the grown-up world holding hands is reserved for my husband, in car rides or church pews. And, to be honest, while walking or shopping with my friends, it wouldn’t come naturally anymore.
Because, we’re adults, and adults shake hands with a firm grip. We hold hands before Christmas or Easter dinner, we say grace and then we let go as quickly as possible. Amen.
And so, I hold on as I can. I hold my own hands together, or I’ll hold my daughter’s hands as she sits beside me, and I’ll pray. I pray that those I love who are hurting, know they’re not alone. I pray for those who are sick, to feel comforted. For those who need rest, to find it. And I pray that though I’m terrible with email, and phone calls and though distance or age has made the simple comfort of holding hands an impractical notion – that they would know I am, hands clasped with theirs, in my heart.
And we are together.