When virtual hugs just don’t work

It is 3am and I’m standing in front of the open door of my refrigerator. I’m not eating. I am just surveying. I guess eating is still a possibility, but at the moment I am just admiring how much food is inside. Milk, eggs, cheese. Some salad stuff. Lots of fruit and a million yogurts.

We have everything we need for the time being. There is margarine, ketchup ( a food staple for me) and pickles.

I look into the pantry. Boxes of all styles of pasta. Cans of tuna, soup, snack bars and multiple rolls of paper towels and toilet paper.

We are good.

Possibly my husband and I won’t need to leave the house for supplies for the next two weeks.

But as I stand there sleepless in the middle of the night trying to decide if I want anything, I suddenly realize I want something that is not available in my refrigerator or pantry. I can’t even find it behind the frozen waffles in my freezer.

I realize I am awake at 3am because I miss having my arms around my children. I miss the tactile confirmation of their existence.

I know they were out there scattered across the country. I know they are okay. Hadn’t I just seen them on Zoom? Didn’t I hear their voices? Were we not sharing the ever-changing nature of our emotional barometers several times each week?

Sometimes I am cranky and depressed, and sometimes they are. And sometimes, we all are.

I actually suspect that most of the time we all are, but sometimes some of us are better at hiding it.

This is what the pandemic has really taken from me.

It’s not about going out to the movies, which is one of my absolute favorite forms of entertainment.

It’s not about theatre – which I also love. Or restaurants.

I miss those things, but I’m okay without them.

And it’s not as if I usually get to see my scattered family too frequently.

But as I stand in front of the pyramid of yogurts in my refrigerator, I realize now that the possibility of seeing them was important to me.

I could fly to California or New York or Baltimore. I could drive south through my home state of Texas and alight at the front door of family.

And we could greet each other with hugs. Real hugs. With arms around each other. And no masks. I want to embrace my daughters and feel their hair upon my face, and smell their scents.

I want to hold tight to my son and marvel, as I always do, at how tall he is and how strong he has become.

This is what I really want.

I know there are many things that we are missing during this weird isolated time.

Many of the things I miss are surprising to me.

I miss having someone see me in my clothes. Just my everyday jeans and tee shirts. I miss the feeling of having it matter whether I choose a blue or purple tee for the day. I miss the feeling of interacting with the world while knowing I have picked earrings to match my day’s shirt.

Now I put on makeup and then don’t stop myself from rubbing it off within the first 30 minutes. After all, I saw myself with it on, and I’m the only one who is going to care.

Not that it ever really mattered. It just gave me some appearance standard to reach for. I always set a very low bar. But at least there was a bar.

I miss all the stories I would hear from random strangers in the supermarket. I know it is weird to have a total stranger explain why it is more important to eat grapes than cantaloupe, but I miss that.

I miss chatting about the weather with the nice lady in the dry cleaners. And I miss seeing the wheelchair bound ticket taker at the movie theatre. I hope he is doing alright.

I miss all these things.

But I realize they are not critical to my happiness. But the feel of my family, even if it is infrequent is necessary to me.

I hug my cat, but she doesn’t care. Because she is a cat, and she never cares.

I wave at my neighbors.

I chat with everyone on the phone.

But I miss my kids.

I telepathically send virtual hugs in their direction. They are horribly unfulfilling.

I guess I can eat a piece of chocolate instead.

At least it will be sweet.

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