Cookies, Hugs and a New Year

December 23, 2020

The cookies are long gone.  The hugs are sadly a thing of the past too. A New Year is upon us and I, for one, am hopeful.

First, the cookies. Long a tradition children and then grandchildren would take a day or two to come to Grandma’s house to make and bake holiday cookies. Recipes were pulled that were old, tattered but treasured. Over the years the children grew up and made their own traditions. Their children, as soon as they could cut out or frost a reindeer or gingerbread man, were standing at Grandma’s counter frosting and using sprinkles like pros.  This past December, we had two of our granddaughters come over to make their favorite recipes – two cooking and baking at once.  It was a huge success and it was fun.  They are both taller than me and only because of the pandemic did they have time from their normally hectic and busy days to bake cookies once more with Grandma.  I’d like to think we’d do this again next Christmas but who’s to say.  They are growing up and after all if the hugs went away went away this year, what will 2021 bring?

I never realized how important hugs were until they were not allowed.  Keeping our distance from others became a vital way to avoid exposure to COVID-19, so hugs were definitely out.  So too were handshakes.  Early on those transitioned to elbow “shakes” but you can’t do those with six feet in between, so those mostly went away too.  Smiles disappeared behind the masks and you can’t always tell how the person is feeling by looking at their eyes.  Although expressive, eyes can try and twinkle or smile but it just isn’t the same.  “No touching!”  It feels like a warning parents would give to squabbling kids sharing a back seat.  It still feels like a punishment.

Think about what a hug or a handshake conveys from you to someone else.  You want to show affection. You grab a kid and give them a hug.  You want to tell a friend how glad you are to see them. Upon meeting them, a hug is in order.  Your adult child lost their job.  The person you know well had to shut down their small business.  Your close friend just lost his spouse but you can’t give him a close, loving hug because you may infect each other.  Oh my goodness!  You can say what you feel but you may feel it’s inadequate.  Sometimes words just don’t cover it.  It’s the warmth of another person’s arms around you with a word of encouragement, sympathy or love that is needed. How can grief be expressed and shared without a hug?

Now hugs are not for everyone.  Some people were not brought up hugging or showing that kind of affection.  Others went through experiences whereby hugs and touching were bad experiences.  Those thoughts and feelings should be respected by all.  Handshakes are such a customary, accepted way to greet others.  It is used as a method of introduction, renewing a past acquaintance or “sealing a deal” with a handshake. Much less formal than a hug, it still gives permission to each other to touch.  After all remember the old adage, “You can tell how a person is by their handshake.”  These days I wonder how you tell how a person is.  You cannot shake their hand nor they yours.  No hugs and a mask that covers the lower half of your face and theirs.  How does one “seal a deal” these days?

Believing that COVID-19 was a flu-like problem back in March 2020 that would disperse in several weeks,  little did any of us know the toll it would take individually and collectively for the more than the next seven months with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands becoming ill.  As the end of 2020 approached, a common theme was heard, “I’ll be glad when 2020 is over.”  As I write this with little of 2020 left, I do wonder what 2021 will bring.

Here’s what I hope.  I hope people stop dying due to COVID-19.  I hope the vaccines just being introduced are safe, effective and available free to anyone.  I hope people will begin to put their lives back together, get jobs back, be able to pay their bills and once again send their children safely off to school.  I hope churches can safely welcome back their parishioners, hospitals are once again reliably available to anyone/everyone who needs them in an emergency and healthcare staff (nurses and doctors) can work a regular shift without having a patient(s) die.

I’d like to be able to go the movies in person, although Netflix is an okay substitute in a pinch.  College students could once again return to campus and classes in person.  In fact, students of all ages—from pre-school, grade school, middle school and high school—can resume and bring the children back together so they can “hang out” or whatever it is called these days.  Basketball, football, baseball & other sports can try and pick up the season wherever it is on the calendar.  After school activities are offered again and safe.  Dance recitals are rehearsed and planned as a community event.

Buses can run with passengers actually sitting together in seats.  Places of employment can decide how much of the work is best done virtually and what the advantages will be to actually have employees in a brick and mortar building once again.  Travel may be able to be resumed more normally with trains, planes, & automobiles on the road and in the air more.

Gatherings.  Oh how I miss gatherings.  Large family parties, office Christmas parties, luncheons, social events, pot luck suppers, lunch with friends or a large community meeting such as Kiwanis or the Chamber meetings would not only be allowed but welcomed.  Workshops, in service training and professional conferences, would once again be planned and scheduled.  In person meetings to discuss and decide important issues would be on the calendar. The ability to see a person in their environment and to be able to meet, actually face to face, would gain value once again. Imagine “face to face” means seeing the person, the whole person without a mask.  I’m not sure when this will be but I have to hope it will happen.

The New Year is close – 2021. Our fate and those of the entire world are holding our collective breaths.  Will the new vaccines and the restricted measures put in place by desperate government officials be enough to turn the tide?  How many more people will get sick with COVID-19 and be hospitalized?  How many more lives will be lost through a lack of concern for themselves or others by not being careful?  Hope is a great word.  A year ago we as a people didn’t know the impact of what having it and not having it would bring.  For many families hope for the vaccine came too late to save the loved ones who are gone forever.  But here’s what I think it means:

H             Help others and stay healthy by wearing a mask & social distancing.

O             Operate on the assumption that your life depends on it.

P             Promote positive healthy habits & attitudes for all you come in contact with.

E              End the pandemic so we can all live our lives.

Finally, the hugs.  Let’s be at a place where hugs can come back.  It’s like roller skating or bowling.  It’s a skill you don’t forget.  When it’s safe, a hug can be a great way to make someone’s day.  Second choice: a handshake.  After all, you may need to “seal a deal” with one.  Bring on 2021.  We’re ready, we hope.


Carol S. Heape, MSW, CMC-Founder of Elder Options, Inc. and an elder herself.  She earned her BSW and MSW from California State University-Sacramento, is a Certified Care Manager.

Founded in 1988, Elder Options supports older adults, the disabled, and their families by creating care services that enable your loved one to experience A Life Lived Fully Every Day.

Categories: Staying Safe