A few of the many aspects of the animal kingdom that I find endearing are the grooming habits of certain species. Consider the quiet moment under a leafy tree as a family of gorillas comb and preen one another in relaxed quietude. Imagine them yawning, peeling bananas for each other and plucking (and eating) an occasional bug from a loved one's ear.
Some of the perks of human family life are akin to that. There are times when we like to groom, preen and calm each other. (Most of us would probably forego the bug plucking.) We seek each other out in a lonely moment and exchange a touch, a hug, a backrub. Recently I was sitting on the couch watching a movie, holding the baby on my lap. Ranin, (who was 4 at the time), walked up with his big plastic bat and started rubbing my face with it. "Let me massage your head with my baseball bat," he said to me lovingly. (I swear that is a verbatim quote.) "Do you have a fever?"
Then he sat next to me and said, "Mom, you are totally beautiful, your face is totally pretty. You are the beautifullest lady and I want to buy you a queen suit, an' a princess suit. When I'm a teenager I want to buy you a million dollars. When am I a teenager? Now you tell me I'm handsome. Will you buy me a police suit an' a prince suit?"
I have to say here that in my entire life nobody has ever gushed to me about my beauty except my mother. (The phrases "a face only a mother could love" and "love is blind" come to mind -- still, it's sweet to hear it.) Kind of a preening of the soul, if you will. Then Ranin attempted to climb onto my lap, pulling my hair accidentally and pinching various body parts with his knees. He drew his grubby little face close and kissed me, climbed down and went back to playing. Sometimes a boy's gotta do what a boy's gotta do. That was our moment under the proverbial tree.
My daughter Gracie has a different approach to the same end. When she feels affectionate, she crawls into my lap and says, "I didn't get enough love today." She is very direct about it. "Mommy, scratch my back. Now scratch my neck. Now scratch my arms. Don't stop. Can you keep doing it? That feels good. Can you keep doing it? Don't stop." She lounges on me like I'm the latest in Lazy-Mom recliners. "Now do that thing where you run your fingers through my hair. Yes, like that. Keep doing that. That feels so good. Don't stop Mommy, keep doing that. Can you keep doing that for an hour?"
When children want to reciprocate love, there is nothing so tender. If my husband has an especially bad headache in the morning, the whole family massages him. Even the baby sticks his hand in and mushes it around. Our eldest boy, Tymon, has learned some really good techniques over the years. He's somewhat of a massage therapist's apprentice. We keep telling him that he'll be so grateful when he grows up, because we're helping him master a skill.
As we work on Daddy, sometimes everybody starts massaging everybody else until it turns into a big, fat tickle/wrestle session. This usually ceases abruptly when the baby gets kicked in the face, cries and wipes his liberally running nose on my shoulder. Ahh, the intimacy of family life.
It really is the little things that make memories. So, if you ever feel distant from your loved ones, reach over and comb somebody's hair with your fingers. The next thing you know they might peel you a banana.
Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.