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by Lonnye Sue Pearson

Holidays, all holidays, are happy, joyous occasions spent with family and friends. Nothing says “peace” better than gathering together to laugh and sing and love than Christmas. What better time to affirm the blessings bestowed upon us than at Thanksgiving? And, the celebration of regeneration and reconciliation at Easter is a miracle within itself.

The only drawback to my holiday celebrations now is that two members of my family are no longer available to dispense hugs, laugh at my lame jokes, and tell me how much they love me. So holidays are somewhat bittersweet.

I miss Mama’s dressing at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I miss her laugh that started at her toes and zoomed all the way up to her eyes. I miss her calm assurance and fiery attitude. I miss the glow on her face when she looked at my daddy. I miss the phone calls during a Braves game or when two snowflakes fell. I miss her utter, unashamed love of Jesus. But most of all, I miss her hugs.

I miss Maureen’s determination and her independent spirit. I miss her sense of style and rhythm (even though she was confined to a wheelchair). I miss her expressive blue/gray eyes that held mine a little longer than usual the last time I saw her. I miss her artistic talent that ended before she could develop it fully. I miss her love of animals and her passion for adventure and just plain fun. I miss her laugh. But most of all, I miss her hugs.

The act of embracing is an art form in the South; we love to hug. My mother and daughter were world-class huggers and nobody escaped their nets.

When Mama hugged, she wrapped both arms around the recipient and squeezed, all the while murmuring sweet words of welcome or goodbye. “Hello, honey. I’m so glad to see you” or “Goodbye, honey. Please come back soon.” She called everybody “honey,” and no one seemed to mind. Her hugs were never hesitant or awkward. And not a single soul ever declined to be hugged by Sue -- she was that good at it.

Maureen’s hugs were just as intense as Mama’s except she managed to make the huggee feel completely engulfed with only one usable arm. She managed to maneuver her wheelchair to just the right angle, lean forward and reach out with that one long arm and wiggle her fingers in command. Who could resist? She always, always sighed when the hug was in progress. And not a single soul ever declined to be hugged by Maureen -- she was that good at it.

Besides being a size ten (Mama’s lifelong dream) and walking on two legs (Maureen’s futile wish on earth), I believe the two started a hug machine in Heaven, and I am looking forward to being a part of it some day. So for now I practice on just about anyone who comes within two feet of me.

Sometimes at night when silence settles in, I conjure up images of Mama and Maureen dancing and laughing . . . and hugging. Then peace echoes in my head.


Associate editor of USADEEPSOUTH, Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson grew up in the Mississippi Delta, but now calls North Carolina home. She’s an English teacher (one of THOSE), and she loves to share her stories.


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