Jottings: Do not touch
Today, the instruction we get is not to touch objects or people. It is a dangerous practice, and we could get some kind of virus if we do.
But, I was taught that lesson at a very early age. While sitting in the back seat of the family Packard, on our way to my Grandmother's house, I was given a full set of instructions. "Do not touch anything on Grandmother's coffee table, end tables, and definitely not anything in the china cabinet." She had a very extensive collection of antique glass, especially Galle and Lalique which were beautiful and much too delicate for little hands. And, they were perfectly placed to reflect the light shining on them, and showing their most interesting sides, especially the tiny Galle vases.
However, although lovely, my interest was in her collection of miniature glass and porcelain shoes ... oh, so little and perfect in every detail. She had a set of black Victorian high tops with the hooks & fasteners, and even lace peeking out of the top. She had high heels perched on tiny little pedestals as they would be in a shoe shop, and shoes depicting every occasion. I could put my fingers in those tiny things and admire and play with them. Then I would hear my Mother say, "Do not touch," and I would stop immediately. She had no sneakers however. Grandmother was not a fan of sneakers.
When I went away to school, I got a little package from my Grandmother. In it was the tiny little white shoe with lots of lace fringe that I dearly loved. It was on my night stand throughout college, and I still have it on my bedroom bureau today.
Now, our instructions are not to touch people … not even fist or elbow bumps which I never thought much of anyway. So "touch" has a very important feeling to impart … both to those giving it and to those receiving it. And, amazingly enough, we never thought anything about that until we were told to no longer touch people or things.
That hug when you met someone you had not seen recently, when you were sad from some situation, when you wanted to show someone how much you loved them … can no longer do that. The handshake to greet someone, convey congratulations, acknowledge their presence … can't do that either. And an arm around the shoulder that says, "I am here for you, I care for you" is also a "no-no."
So the meaning we convey by these different acts of touching is no longer possible. We will have to verbalize our feelings and express them another way. And, speaking from behind a mask can contort our speech and make it hard to understand. Half of our face is covered for our protection and we can no longer show our emotion and concern through our visible expressions.
We are glad to follow these new rules about "touching" to protect ourselves and others. I personally am anxiously looking forward to the time when I can hug my family and friends again and will never take the "touching" for granted. In the meantime, I will loudly proclaim my love and concern for them, verbally. It is important to do so.
Marlene O'Brien is a member of the Jottings Group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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