Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Group Hug

When it comes to something a group of people can do together that isn't illegal or immoral, nothing much can beat the Group Hug. I am absolutely, terrifyingly serious. I say "terrifying" because sometimes I realize I'm so needy it scares me almost to death.

Monday was such a beautiful day. Absurdly inspired, I once again decided heaven must be like a big front porch where you can sit a while, then run out and play like a child in the front yard, or maybe with a child in the front yard. The sun shining through the leaves felt so fine on my face that I almost threw my big unstylish sunglasses into the street.

I was driving around with my friend and we had some spare time between our scheduled activities. So we made a stop at her daughter's house and that's where my front porch reverie began. I felt awkward at first because I didn't know anyone but my friend. Different people kept coming out and going back into the house, and children who belonged to who-knows-who were running everywhere. Cats, some wearing collars and others obviously wild, were lolling all around, stretching and yawning. The ice cream man jingled by. I remembered I had my camera in the car, so I retrieved it and began taking the children's pictures. They shrieked "Cheese! Cheese!" before I even had it out of the case. The adults I didn't know began to laugh and so did I. I promised to give them copies of the pictures.

Our next stop was at the home of my friend's former son-in-law. He has custody of her grandchildren, a court-ordered fact that she finds it hard to forgive him for. She'd been telling me how he won't let her see the children and, in fact, she hadn't visited them since January. We drove by his house slowly. She saw his truck but didn't see the former son-in-law himself sitting in the front yard smoking. But I did.

"Why don't you try asking him if you can make an appointment to see the kids?"

"No! He might throw something at me."

I'd never seen this man act violently, so I persisted, "Ask very politely." I promised to circle the block but not leave her for long.

She got out of the car and began to walk up his driveway as I pulled away. I drove around the block slowly, waving at strangers who were outside enjoying the lovely weather.

When I pulled up again at the house, the ex-son-in-law waved me into his driveway, and my friend was already hugging a grandchild. Another grandchild was on his way out.

I had missed them, too. Even after the first hugs, the ten year old stood between my friend and me, patting us both. Finally, he put his arms around us and said, "Let's stand real close to each other."

I could restrain myself no longer. "Let's have a group hug!" I cried. The six year old ran over to join us.

We were standing in a driveway. But as I've prayed my thanks today, I've pictured us holding onto each other on a heavenly front porch. Absolutely, terrifyingly beautiful.

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