Lovin’ Spoonfuls

I am not a hugger–at least, not a relaxed, comfortable one.  I envy those who are, and I fervently wish I could be one of them; I wish I could throw my arms around the world with reckless abandon and squeeze tight while planting a smackin’ big, sloppy kiss on its forehead. 

But I can’t.  That’s just not me.  I’m too quiet and reserved and tense and self-conscious and, to be perfectly honest, afraid–what if the world doesn’t hug me back?  (And, even worse, what if that sloppy kiss gets wiped away as soon as my back is turned?) 

My parents were not huggers, either.  I don’t remember ever being hugged by my dad (until his dementia robbed him of his inhibitions), and my mom’s displays of affection were, at best, awkward and stiff (she did try).   And yet, somehow, when I was growing up I still knew they both loved me.  I worry sometimes–do my own children know the same thing?  

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the different ways in which I show my love for others, and I know that, hugging inabilities aside, I am a lover–albeit a discreet one.  I know what’s in my heart, even if others don’t.  And I know my inability to openly express my affection is probably my biggest weakness, one of those “comfort zone violations” I struggle with every day. 

Like my mother before me–and probably like so many other women–I think my love is best and most easily expressed through my labors in the kitchen.  My mom knew how much I enjoyed her homemade brownies, and so every time I came to visit I could count on a warm pan fresh from the oven.  When my mom passed away a few years ago, I inherited her “brownie pan,” but I haven’t been able to make myself bake in it–real or imagined, I can still smell her brownies every time I pull out that pan, and the aroma brings such vivid memories and tremendous comfort that I cannot possibly defile her pan with everyday use.

My mother-in-law was the same way.  Trips back home were always highlighted by my husband’s favorite cherry cheesecake chilling in the fridge, and the cabinets were always over-flowing with my children’s favorite snacks.  And when we came in the night before Thanksgiving, we were always anxiously anticipating the steaming pan of lasagna that we knew would be waiting on the stove.  That was love.

And it is with tremendous love that I now make my sons’ favorite dishes (chicken enchiladas and potato soup and gumbo–and who wants cheesecake?) when they come home for a visit, and it is love that propels me into the kitchen so early in the morning so that I can have blueberry pancakes or apple cinnamon scones waiting for them whenever they roll out of bed.  The same love guarantees they will have sugar cookies or pumpkin pie or brownies to take back home with them, even if I have to give up my afternoon nap in order to make it happen.  Do they understand that when I’m filling their bellies and their take-home bags, I’m also telling them how much I love them?   

In my later years of teaching, I developed the habit of making goodies for all of my classes before Christmas break and again for my seniors on their last day of school.  Sugar cookies, vegetable trays, fruit pizza, crab dip–whatever the dish, I hope those students realized it was created and given as an act of love by a teacher who truly valued and cared for them.  I wish I had done this every year since the beginning, but in my youth (my twenties) I didn’t realize the importance (or pleasure) of such sharing.

And since I have been a principal, I have spent countless hours (and more money than my husband needs to know about) preparing an array of decadent delights for my staff before every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Cheese balls, veggie pizzas, fruit salsa with cinnamon chips, pecan tarts, and peanut butter balls–I can’t tell them how much I love and appreciate them (that might be just a little bit creepy), and I certainly can’t hug them (no awkward touchy-feely stuff at school anyway), but I can show them my affection through my culinary efforts.  And whatever momentary pleasure they derive from inhaling five or ten (or fifteen) peanut butter balls pales in comparison to the joy I receive by providing such small tokens of my gratitude.

I love my family unconditionally, and I love countless friends near and far, all of my students (even the knuckleheads), and (almost) all of my colleagues.  I hope my occasional kind words and actions are enough proof of my affection for them, and the next time any of them receive goodies from my kitchen, I hope they will consider themselves hugged.  For now, it’s the best I can do.

A slice of berry pizza

About icedteawithlemon

I have recently retired from a 30-year career in education in one of the best school districts in the world. I hope to spend my second life reading, writing, photographing, traveling, biking, cheering on my favorite baseball team (the St. Louis Cardinals), and soaking up glorious sunshine. In my spare time I enjoy playing with my pet tarantulas, trying out new flavors of chewing gum, and knitting socks for prison inmates. I'm almost positive that in a past life I was one of the Seven Dwarfs (most likely "Grumpy"), and in my next life I'm going to be either a taste tester for Hershey's or a model for Victoria's Secret's new line, "Bloomers for Boomers." I want to travel country back roads, singing Vanilla Ice songs at every karaoke bar and rating bathroom cleanliness at every truckstop. And someday I plan to own a private beach where skinny girls aren't allowed. I want to be a writer when I grow up. "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."--Henry David Thoreau
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19 Responses to Lovin’ Spoonfuls

  1. Yvonne says:

    Hugs back to you my dear! If I was there (because I am a hugger), I would wrap you all up! I never had any of your tasty baked pastries, etc…..but I did take your words of encouragement and ran with it! 🙂 I must say that food has been a “happy thought” in my life as well, it was soothing to the soul. Unfortunately I allowed that food to cover the hurts in life as they happened, so now the consequences of allowing the good things to cover the bad have evolved into a death trap for me. It is not the actual food now that I have educated myself, but the “love” from the person in which the aroma has come that we all needed. Keep hugging, no matter your comfort because somebody just might need it! 😉

    • Thank you, Yvonne. I, too, have used food to medicate my occasional pains–particularly the emotional ones. “Virtual” hugs to you this week as you prepare for your journey! Take care.

  2. Casey Daugherty says:

    Making someone cry before work is not very friendly! Xoxo (there’s my hug and kiss!)

  3. Rhonda Newton says:

    Again, I am moved. I’m a hugger, Karen. Imagine the biggest, warmest, most enveloping HUG coming your way. Your writing is magnificent. It touches me where I live. I love your blogs. I have an old granite cake pan that belonged to my paternal grandmother. I love to use it, even though I really didn’t know her. It makes me happy to know that she used it. People who don’t enjoy cooking will never understand the satisfaction it provides! I could visualize you in the kitchen performing your labors of love. Have a great day!

    • Thank you–your responses always make my day! I have other dishes that belonged to my mom and my grandmas, and I love using them and feeling that maternal presence. There’s just something about that brownie pan, though–every time I pull it out, I get a whiff of chocolate, I get tears in my eyes, and I put the pan back in its resting place. “Virtual” hugs to you!

  4. Sam says:

    Ugh. Hugs… You well know that I’m not a hugger either. My friends think it’s odd that I don’t and we didn’t really give hugs, but I think we all three turned out fine. We’ve never gotten into fights, we’ve never been in trouble with the law (in this country anyway…) and we don’t do drugs. Something must have gone right in our childhood that didn’t need hugs. I think your peanut butter pie and potato soup are a couple of the most powerful hugs out there… and those hugs don’t just last for a few seconds. What my friends don’t understand is that it’s pretty much a love binge when I go home. A physical hug might cause purging.

  5. SUE KLAYMAN says:

    You’ve just made the delicious treats you’ve shared taste even better – Now we know why your dishes make us all feel so very good. Thank you for the “hugs” over the years……..xoxox back to you.

  6. Janet says:

    Oh, yeah…..they know!!! Food speaks volumes, especially the homemade kind, which can be a rare commodity these days. I’m a hugger, but someone taking the time to cook for me rates right up there with the best hugs. Your family, friends and co-workers know….lucky guys (and gals!)

  7. Julie says:

    I still remember the morning 2 years ago when I looked down the hall at just the right moment to see a junior high student put his arm around your shoulders. In that instant, I inwardly chuckled and thought, “There is nothing about Mrs. Eubank that says ‘HUG ME’!” I wouldn’t consider myself much of a hugger either….especially if the hug reeks of the timid hesitance of obligation. And you’re right….love and affection can be shown in so many other ways. Speaking for myself, you can show your love through wonderful food at school anytime!

    P.S. No worries. I shall never sneak attack hug you in the hallways…..but I WILL continue to be amused when the unwary adolescents do! =)

    • Thanks … I think! Glad you could find amusement in my discomfort!

      • Julie says:

        Your discomfort is only amusing because I completely understand it!! I’ve explained to at least a few students in the past four years that I like them, but there’s really no reason to give me a hug everyday. Obviously the “stay outta my bubble” body language is not something that they recognize yet. =)

  8. Teri says:

    My boyfriend is not a hugger, either. He works at a company where everyone hugs instead of shaking hands. Instead of just rolling with it, he has just told everyone “Look, I’m not a hugger” LOL!! Thankfully if in a intimate relationship he takes the guard down a bit.

    Enjoyed this post! 🙂

    • I’m not crazy about shaking hands, either (the whole germ thing), but in a business setting I can’t imagine substituting hugging–that would seem really awkward! Thank you for your response!

  9. bronxboy55 says:

    I’m sure we both know a few people who will give you a big hug and stab you in the back at the same time. The presence or absence of physical affection is not an indicator of inner feelings. It’s obvious from your words and actions that you have a great capacity for love, and no doubt the people in your life are well aware of it. This post is drenched in honesty — I’ll take that over hugs any day.

    • Thank you for your kind words! I agree with your statement about physical affection not being an indicator of our inner feelings, and I especially appreciate your comment that “this post is drenched in honesty”–which is exactly what I’m striving for! Thanks for reading.

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