My youngest daughter, Camryn, has been gathering a list of names for the past three years. The origins are a bit cloudy, but the basic premise is that those whose names appear on it are folks she meets and likes. There are also a few notable characters from history and some celebrities.
Those entered on the list become “hug worthy” and are entered into a carefully crafted roster. She calls it her hug list.
Reading through it, one can chronicle our family history, activity and proclivities, including travels and tastes.
One early entry is a long-haul trucker from rural Northern Canada. We meet her at a restaurant in Santa Nella, a place frequented by truckers on the stretch of Interstate 5 between Bakersfield and Sacramento.
Her name is Janice and, not wanting to eat alone, she joins us for dinner. We learn about her home on one of the beautiful Canadian Lakes and about her husband, waiting for her there. He is ill, suffering from heart disease. Janice is taking a load south and is meeting her children and grandchildren in Orange County for a trip to Disneyland.
As is often the case, Janice’s name is added to the list after our departure. I think we all hope to meet her again one day — not for the sake of the list, but because she was just so darn nice.
Camryn’s selections aren’t always predictable. At the end of her confession, she asks our aging pastor for a hug. He gives a confused look and asks her to repeat the request. She does, and he offers an ‘I guess so’ shrug. She leans across to embrace him and to secure his place in her personal and our family history.
Kim — Camryn didn’t ask for his last name — drives the ice cream truck that meanders through our neighborhood every Sunday afternoon. Greeting him with money in hand has become a weekly ritual for my daughters. His name is a recent, but as yet unrealized, hug list entry.
There are a slew of actors from Solvang’s PCPA Theaterfest and The Great American Melodrama on the list, including the leads from Les Miserables and West Side Story. These are not strangers to her. Her older sister performed with them to Camryn’s continued envy.
Camryn has made some mistakes, names that were added to the list and later removed. These most often occur among historical figures who are presented one way only to be discovered for who they really are. Christopher Columbus was one such retraction.
Camryn keeps her list in a bound leather notebook, carefully checking off successfully completed hugs and entering new names as she encounters potential victims.
It has become a new criterion for our family in social encounters, and one that is perhaps worth passing on. We often ask, “Are they hug worthy?” and of ourselves we ask, “Are we?”
— Tim Durnin is a father, husband and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com for ideas, comments, discussion and criticism.