The Hundredth Hug

In an effort to get the homebodies outside over the weekend (they would stay inside in their pajamas, all day, if we let them) a challenge was issued: Could you get a hundred hugs?
Two years ago, De-facto filmed Short-pants and Buddy-roo at a little park around the corner and created a copy-cat version of the “Free Hugs” video that was rushing around the internet at the time. The girls still remember it; occasionally they’re inspired to scratch out calins gratuit (French for “free hugs”) on a sheet of paper and troll around the house looking for extra love. That’s why my challenge was met with enthusiasm and succeeded in propelling them outside and into the fresh air of the real world.
“Don’t be too close,” was Buddy-Roo’s command as we walked out of the building. She and her sister ran ahead, their signs held high above their heads as they solicited affection from any and all passing strangers.

I know some mothers who would frown upon this: setting two adorable little girls free in a thick crowd of tourists, Sunday shoppers and falafel-eaters (our ‘hood, being a Jewish one, is the only quartier that’s open and vibrant on a Sunday). The girls were in view, more or less, as I trailed them from a distance while they made their way through the busy streets and around the block. I admit when I was first mothering I had my worrywart moments, but I’ve grown to appreciate the benefits of a longer leash – rest for me, confidence for them – and I subscribe fully to the idea of Free Range kids.

But in truth, helicopter-moms need not worry. I couldn’t get over the number of people who actually recoiled when presented with a small smiling child holding a sign offering a free hug. They’d nervously look the other way, or move deliberately to avoid the path of my love-hungry children. Hardly an invitation for abduction, it appeared that the signs actually succeeded in keeping strangers away.
The girls were discouraged. A grenadine at my local café-bar was in order. But as soon as they’d guzzled the red elixir, they were at it again, out on the street, signs in the air, expectant smiles at work. Though Buddy-roo tired of the effort, her older sister was relentless. A comment made by a friend at the bar: “Send her to the states in 2012, she’ll get Obama re-elected.”

Persistence pays off. The hugs started to roll in. Short-pants kept careful count, assigning each hug a number and yelling it out to me (inside) every time she received an embrace. Buddy-roo traveled back and forth to the street and hugged her sister again and again, pushing the count up toward the goal. When a hundred hugs was finally achieved (half of them between sisters), I was wondering if it might trigger some kind of cosmic tipping point and suddenly everybody in the café would start hugging each other. There was, however, no visible hundredth monkey shift.

Short-pants was supremely proud of her accomplishment. Buddy-roo was thrilled, too. I was just happy for a little break at the bar.

Then it was time to go home, eat some dinner, have a bath and get back into our pajamas. Along the way, the hugs kept coming, at least another hundred – maybe more.

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