Hugs and whirls

ONE day I spoke gruffly to the Daughter. ``If you don't watch it, Young Lady, I'm going to pick you up and whirl you around and hug you and kiss you.'' Her eyes narrowed. Gravely she said, ``I'm not watching it, Mom.''

I solemnly filled my arms with Daughter, spun 'round and 'round, and then kissed my bundle till we both were giggling.

I know this was a good thing, one of the many, quick, marvelous moments between parent and child. It might have been fleeting, but she wanted to do it again and again, then call her Dad to tell him.

She's practiced this trick on her puppies, the plush one and the terrier. They love being loved, too.

I repeat it just often enough with the Daughter to keep the chuckle fresh. I like it especially when she comes and finds me, peeling carrots or sitting at the typewriter, and holding back a smile, says, ``I'm not watching it, Mom.''

Already the Daughter is 38 pounds. I won't always be able to scoop her up and whirl her around. But when I make wishes, one of mine is that ``being whirled'' will be one of her childhood memories.

It seems to me that this sort of spontaneous affection turned informal ritual is a most important bit of a family's arcana. Private gestures, silly words, songs, games, little routines, all contribute to family style and strengthen each member's sense of belonging.

Some people spend their lives yearning for just that: belonging.

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