He raised his long, gangly arms instinctively, then dropped them again, uncertain. The study in his light blue eyes was tentative, watchful, hopeful, but unsure.
I looked right into them, longing to restore his comfort, trying to beam away the weight of so many months of uncertainty. Long, dry, confusing, lonely, frightening months. The last time we hugged, he was a year younger, inches shorter, shoe sizes smaller. Just a year? Across the gulf of this moment, it felt like a lifetime. It was before the emergence of that precocious intellect, with its crackling wit and love of puns, its astonishing vocabulary, before he asked things like how to use “irascible” in a sentence. And before he debated his mother issue for issue, flashing terms learned so young in the long shadows of the extraordinary era, out of the deep, omnipresent tragedies of the previous year, terms like “racism” and “sexism.”
Reaching toward him, slowly but comfortably, I encircled his thin shoulders with one arm, then both. Our Buddy is 10 now, tall, angular, thin, elbows and feet everywhere, an openly tender and vulnerable young soul. Inside the safety of my arms, he signed softly for a beat or two, then squeezed back in response.
It’s OK now, I said out loud, while wondering if those words would ever really ring completely true to any of us again. It’s OK, I repeated, mustering more confidence this time, my arms giving the signal that mattered most to this young man, little boy, grandson, brother, son, child of the times, one of millions. It’s fine to hug me now. It’s safe. I’ve had my shot.