As promised in Friday’s Picture Book Review post, today’s poem takes on the famous, Welsh word for a hug. The cwtch (pronounced cutch which rhymes with butch).
Growing up, I never knew that the hugs I received from my parents could be classified as a cwtch. Their hugs wrapped me in safety, healed, and warmed me. Although both of my parents loved me dearly, it was my father who taught me the art of a good hug.
Dad worked from home, and our entire basement was set up for his scientific laboratory. From this remarkable world of beakers, strange chemicals, and astronomical discoveries, he would come upstairs in his white, lab coat for two reasons: he needed a snack, and he needed a hug. Dad would grab a Golden Delicious apple out of the refrigerator, invite me to join him at the kitchen table, and settle in for lively conversation while he cut slice after slice. “One for me, and one for you.” Before he disappeared downstairs to work again, he’d wrap me up in a good hug. To this day, the smell of motor oil from his machinery makes my heart skip a beat. I’m serious.
Once, and only once, I commented during a hug that I had twenty more pages to read for a history assignment, and maybe it was a page of algebra problems I needed to work on when Dad hushed me.
“Leslie,” he said, “when you’re giving someone a hug, be with them at that moment. Don’t dwell on things you need to take care of. Just focus on the person you’re hugging and think about how much they mean to you.” Then, he added, “To make the hug really good, don’t let go until you have breathed in and out five times.”
When Dad hugged me, he was with me, thinking about his little girl, and I knew I meant more to him than anything anyone could ever name. I knew it more clearly when I left for college, and Dad called to talk to me at the end of each day. After we shared what we were working on and before we said goodbye, Dad would say,
“Put your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on your right shoulder and squeeze.”
IN THESE ARMS
We never ever missed a day without a cozy hug.
Every time he held me close, my heart could feel a tug.
“Will I always be your hug a bug? Will you always love me so?”
Dad squeezed me close and said to me, “I’m sure that you must know…
I love you from here to Pluto.
I love you more than stars.
I love you more than Jupiter.
I love you more than Mars.
The amount I love you is greater than the biggest number around.
If I could write that number down, I’m sure it would astound!
I snuggled in my Dad’s warm arms and smiled because I knew,
he needed me as much as I would always need him, too.
by Leslie Leibhardt Goodman
Before my dad passed away seven years ago, we shared a hug that lasted far longer than it takes to breathe in and out five times. While I held him, I thought about the dreams he still wanted to live, all the questions I still wanted to ask, and all the hugs I still needed to share with him.
If you ever received an unforgettable hug, hopefully the kind that falls under the title of a cwtch, I hope you’ll share it with me in the comments.
until next Monday