Cate came running into the bathroom this morning wearing only her underwear and pink socks, her hair was rumpled and recklessly skidding across the tile floor… she arrived. I was brushing my teeth at the sink and we met eyes, me looking back at her in the mirror, she grinned, blue eyes sparkling and I felt a familiar warmth fill my chest. I squeezed toothpaste onto my toothbrush (from the middle) and she announced arms overhead, “I’m here!”
Her sister Taylor follows shortly behind her, already dressed for school, hair brushed and braided. Her eyes caught sight of the toothpaste tube I’d just mangled, and with an automatic sigh, rolling her eyes slightly in annoyance, she picks up the tube of toothpaste and squeezes from the bottom rolling it up halfway and replacing it on the counter top. Cate doesn’t wait for me to finish brushing my teeth before throwing her arms around my waist. She hugs me tightly and holds on several seconds before just as quickly letting go and tearing out of the room again.
“I have to leave by 7:40.” Taylor tells me and waits for me to spit out my toothpaste before getting close, offering herself for an embrace. I lean over and hug her pulling her into my shoulder. Still in my arms, she continues, “And we get out at 2:06 today. My conference is at 4 and we can start without my teacher if he is busy since they are student-led. It’s hat day so I am borrowing your black hat, and Cate’s lunch is already in her backpack.” Without another word she breezes out of the room calmly.
And as I descend the stairs minutes later, I see Taylor eating cereal at the breakfast bar… and then I see Cate, still only wearing underwear and socks, dancing in the family room her abandoned jammies in a pile on the floor. Taylor has already arranged their backpacks by the door, and gotten Cate’s coat and shoes and set them next to the couch. Cate makes me chase her before she will change her clothes and won’t sit still as I attempt to brush her wild blonde hair.
“Cate, sit still.” Instructs Taylor rinsing out her cereal bowl at the sink and coming over the the couch. And obediently, Cate takes up a seat right next to her big sister. “You want your hair to look pretty today, right Cate?” asks Taylor. “Mmm hmmm,” says Cate, with wide, agreeable eyes.
“You look beautiful, Cate,” murmurs Taylor and Cate throws her arms around her sister’s neck and they both laugh. And that’s how it is with them. Cate, putting on the big squeeze; who holds on, who grabs on with everything she has because she can’t help herself. And Taylor the one happily captured in the embrace, patiently accepting it, relenting everything to the squeeze. And that is just how they are… loving and being loved. Completely.
Cate loves out loud. Her love is always out in front of her holding on with all she has in her tiny body never hiding what she feels as she feels it. And Taylor, the one taking it all in, more cautious in her pursuits but always welcoming the hugs, her love like a strong heartbeat kept inside; no less intense, just less pronounced in it’s presentation.
And we need both. We need to reach out and we need to be pulled close. We need to show our love and we need to be willing to just accept it’s offering. And we may be one more than the other, but there are moments, when what we actually need is what we’re used to giving. It’s recognizing those moments and not being afraid to take on a different role.
And when Cate was in the hospital, it was Taylor who without hesitation took Cate in her arms, giving her comfort, solace, and protection inside her embrace. And Cate, weak and weary, graciously let herself be held. And it was just as it should have been. And it was without request, it was reversed because they both needed something different this time. Cate needed the reassurance and Taylor needed to give it to her.
And as we rushed out the door, late, it was my turn. I reached out for them both and hugged them tightly pausing for a moment to enjoy how full and complete they both feel in my arms. (I’m like Cate…big squeezer here) And as much as I am the one holding on, they are the ones who are holding me together. That’s the power of the big squeeze…being given and being taken.