Friday, September 11, 2009

Holding Hands

I was driving down Broad Street yesterday, and passed a family (or at least two adults and five children) walking together. They were in two rows, each adult on the side closest to the street, with a chain of two and then three children. What struck me about the scene (admittedly, a passing glimpse) was that two of the boys in the back row were shirtless and kindy stompy in their gate. They looked like that could be, perhaps, tough little kids. But that image was immediately softened by the image of them holding hands with each other and their mom.

Which got me to thinking about holding hands.

I had my first boyfriend when I was fifteen. He was six-foot-four and my whole hand could almost fit into the fleshy palm part of his. I liked holding hands with him and feeling small. Often, while holding hands in the movies, he would run one of his slender fingers through the center of my palm or stroke the outside top of my thumb. If I'd known about this earlier I would have, perhaps, tried a little harder to be less awkward around boys. This was something.

There is also something undeniably instinctual about holding hands with children. I am continually amazed at how the smallest gesture of merely opening your hand and moving it slightly toward a child can cause them to grasp onto yours. Except when they don't want to. And I get that. Sometimes I am even especially proud to find that a child is expressing their independence by declining the hand. Although it is a little sad to discover, even if you do see it coming.

Most of the kids I spent the most time with these days are moving out of the hand-holding stage. One of my best friends lives across the street and I've taken probably hundreds of walks with she and her family. On many of them, I have held her son's hand. I have teased him about having "sticky and/or sweaty boy hands." Of course it doesn't bother me enough to let go. But he, too, is eight and I suspect we are the beginning of the end...

I recently came across a photograph of my family at Kings Island. I am probably eight and I am holding my father's hand. Despite his seeming discomfort in being dressed in brown polyester slacks and matching polyester shirt-sleeve leisure shirt, and the existence of my side-ponytail, our holding hands looks like the most natural thing in the world.

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