today, i was musing on the importance of holding on, after having the unforgivable thought that perhaps it was time to stop sleeping curled up around the quilt my mom made me when i was little, with my three most loved-upon stuffed animals at my back. they are, after all, only toys (although they are very much alive, i swear to you- the yorkie terrier is calm and dignified, and the pink elephant is a bit of a snob which is her cover for her insecurity and fear that since i got the white cat ((who is very soft but also shy and doesn’t quite fit in)), i will stop loving her, which is ridiculous since i will never do so, even if i am going to turn sixteen in a few months). i’m the sort of person who gets bored very easily and changes little things, like my brand of eyeliner or haircolor, every month or so, but who cannot possibly let go of things she loves unless they are surgically removed from her hands/heart.
this was making me feel more than a bit childish, but then i realized i know more people who feel the need to hold on to something than not, such as my mom, who claims that the best part of being a parent is the snuggling. i remember when my sister first came from korea, my other sister and i would wake up in the mornings and go straight to my parent’s bed where the baby was usually first waking up, and we would find a place to curl up with everyone and either cuddle her or let her crawl all over us and laugh hysterically. sometimes, my mom would let me give her her morning bottle while she took a shower, and that was the very best time for me; like many adopted babies who have just been removed from their foster families, she had night terrors and couldn’t sleep for more than an hour and a half, and our whole family would be kept awake at night listening to her screaming, without being able to wake her up. it was always comforting to be able to rock her and hold her in the mornings while she chugged down several bottles, like the very best way to love on her was to curl up around her not-so-little-for-a-seven-month-old self.
when my great-grandmother had a stroke last month, she was in hospice for three weeks before she died. towards the end she stopped being able to talk very well or communicate what she needed. our entire family was usually there, or at least one person to hold her hand, but there were three or four short periods where she was alone. even before the stroke, she absolutely hated that; her alzheimers made her anxious all the time, when even when i was little, she didn’t like you to be out of her sight. one day we came in after such a period of time, and she was holding onto a doll exactly the size of my brand-new baby cousin. we asked the nurse what it was for, and she said she had just ‘felt like she needed something,’ and brought in the doll for her to hold onto. she seemed so much calmer while she was stroking it and adjusting its clothes that i wondered why we’d never tried that before.
it made me realize that some things about human nature don’t change, whether you’re a seven month old or in your late eighties, a parent or a teenager. people just tend to need to hold or be held sometimes, some of us more than others, but i think it is probably a universal need we are all born with, and only some of us learn how to do without.