OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.
Day three hundred and sixty-seven. Not sure why, but I do not want to stop. Something about this record has preserved parts of my sanity throughout the last year and when I contemplated giving up the nearly daily writing, I felt sadness and loss. (As if any more of either was needed during these times.)
I worked a half-day today and spent the afternoon in the company of my love and lovely friends, talking travel, music, theatre, sculpture and food and sharing snippets of possibilities for the future. I felt uplifted. Driving back home, I thought: there is no escaping it – this is our new normal. And somehow, it all focused on the fact that we could not hug our friends when we said goodbye to them after our socially distanced lunch in their garden. I don’t know under what conditions I will ever be relaxed about hugging a friend or stranger ever again. It made me think about three hugs that I remember distinctly from my past. First was when I was fourteen and found out that we would be leaving our home in the US to return to Austria again. A few days before the journey was my official graduation event at our school. My parents couldn’t make it and my best friend’s mom offered to pick me up and make me part of their party for the occasion. Our house was almost empty, all packed up. I couldn’t find my belt and started crying in the middle of the departure chaos. Running late, I was desperate. Katherine’s mom arrived, had one look at me and simply pulled me into a long, soothing embrace. Eventually, I stopped crying and she helped me get ready and that evening clapped as loudly as if I had been her own daughter when I received all my academic awards for the year.
Then, a few years later, in my late teens, I was staying with all my cousins at my grandparents home in Poland for the summer. The generations in my family are a bit mixed up and I have an uncle who is my age, so we grew up as cousins. I was having a miserable day, don’t remember any longer why, but once again when he saw me, without me having to explain anything, he simply hugged me and the world became a better place. A few years later, another summer, I had made a horrible mistake and he and his wife gave me refuge when I needed a place to escape. We haven’t kept in touch since that summer, but I named one of my characters in my first published novel after him.
Third hug was more recent. When André passed away, I got hugged a lot, by everyone, also strangers. The first time I visited my nearest post office after André’s death, Joseph, the gentleman at the counter that day, offered his condolences and called one of his female colleagues to come out and hug me on behalf of all the post office workers.
In the past year, apart from my love’s hugs, I have received only a handful of cautious, brief hugs from friends. The three above would not have been possible without the danger they would hold right now.
With all the monumental loss around us, these are tiny losses, and yet … And yet …
Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.
“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”