Off the Wall, April 20 , 2017

As far back as I can remember, when guests would come to our house to visit, there were never hugs, kisses or semi-embraces, but a handshake between men and women alike.

As soon as Auntie Kay or Uncle Paul rounded the corner and stepped up upon our porch, that long extension of their arms would shoot forth in the direction of the hand s of the whole family that stood by anxiously waiting to make the connection with the firm hand grasp accompanied by big smiles and warm greetings.

I learned long after that hand shaking was always the German way of making any type of contact with individuals whether it was for business or personal reasons.

Much later on in life when I married, a slight change set in when my in-laws greeted me. Of Slovak descent, I was immediately hugged upon receiving initial greetings. I was a little bit shell-shocked, if those are the right words. This wasn’t the way I was brought up. It took a little adjusting, but after awhile, I didn’t mind at all.

Those are just two examples of ways we have come to understand the usage of that transference of feeling.

You see, if we didn’t have the reaction of the nerves within our bodies, we couldn’t convey our inner most expressions of feelings we try to convey to others.

I am reminded recently of a visit I had with a blind friend who I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. I’ve noticed over the years, when ever we meet and I take his arm to let him know of my presence, he takes his hand and feels my face. At first, I felt a little awkward when he did this, but then I realized this was his way of connecting, conveying his feeling toward me. Sure, he could have done it in words, but he chose not to shake hands or extending out his hand, but this was not his way. His embrace spelled out his true emotions, in my opinion. I felt his love through it all.

Over the years, I have learned that when I am in the presence of my children, we usually exchange a hug and one-half. I put it that way because not all hugs are carried out for the same duration of time. Maybe it’s been a thought, there are often different lengths of time people perform these tasks. I have described them using Peeveeisms

  • Shorties – Knowing the embracing of another is soon to come, upon seeing the other person, one puts his arms around him or her, slightly touches the back of the individual with all ten fingers, and then removes them very quickly and with draws one’s arms, inwardly sighing with relief that’s over with;
  • Halfsies – This is done by extending both arms around the other individual giving the impression one is going to embrace another with both arms and using all ten digits, but only circling one arm and touching the person’s back with five fingers;
  • Full-flnger – Planning to carry out the mission of the mindset of one serious giving it his or her a hug as it was originally detailed in the books of old, the strategy is to approach another, raise both arms, extend them forward above the shoulders to the back, step forward, and wrap ones arms around another all the time bringing him or her closer to oneself.
  • Full-flinger-ringer – Using the same tactics as above, the holder extends the time that one may consider just according to his or her own will.

Who commits ‘Shorties?’ Those, possible who have no will of evening wanting to touch another but feel it’s a customary practice, or “Mommy made me do it!” People who commit ‘Halfsies’ are usually in a hurry or may be insincere in their actions. ‘Full-flingers’ or ‘Full-flinger-ringers’ may be exemplified by relatives who may not have seen each other for years on end, or long-time friends or lovers.

I recall over the years that when two people came in contact, they wouldn’t shake or embrace, but raise their index fingers and touch lightly at the end of the fingers. I think that was a fad that came and went. I’m sure there were other fads that did the same that aren’t coming to mind at the present.

The high five is popular. When an agreement of sorts exists, both parties extend their arms up, slapping each other’s hands. Possibly a one-half paddy-cake?

- Paul J. Volkmann
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