Childhood · Nostalgia · Stories

Going Back in Time: The Story Behind the Hug

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For the past few months, I’ve been fortunate enough to have my 6 word stories featured over on my friend Eli’s awesome blog, Coach Daddy. You may remember that we sang his praises back in July—if you haven’t checked this blog out yet, you really should: it’s quite wonderful.

I love the challenge that these posts pose. How do you sum up something that could potentially take pages to write or an hour spent chatting with a friend over coffee in just 6 words? This is especially hard for me as I am known for my posts that are thousands of words, but the process really forces to you think about the real heart of the story that you’re trying to tell.

When I sent my 6 Words submission over to Eli for this month’s post, he generously tossed out the idea of my daughter Zoey joining in as well. I immediately told him she’d love to be a part of it, simply because the prompt was so fun:

Who would you go back in time to hug?

I asked Zoey the question, wondering who a 6-year-old might pick from the past to hug. Would she not understand and pick someone in her immediate family like me or my mom? Or maybe she would choose to hug a fictional character?

But I should have known better, because after all, this is Zoey we’re talking about—a child who proudly proclaims that days are miracles and drops pearls of wisdom like it’s going out of style.

While my answer didn’t go too far back—I chose to hug myself at my lowest point last year, a time when I needed it most, for that hug would have offered the promise that everything would be okay—Zoey went further back and wished her hug could be for someone that she and I both unfortunately never had the chance to meet: her great-grandfather.

The other words she chose for her story not only filled my heart, they sent shivers down my spine. When I sent Zoey’s answer over to Eli, I had to share the story behind this heart-warming hug so he knew the context for her 6 words. And because it’s a story that’s chock-full of all the things we’re all about over here on The Nostalgia Diaries—memories and wonder and love and, of course, a hefty dose of nostalgia—it’s a story that I just had to share here, too:

I never met my grandfather, but his memory lives on through stories my mom has told me of him: He loved to laugh. He was tall and handsome and charming and kind. He was hard-working and dedicated and loyal.

His name was Harold, and he was a professional bowler and owned a bowling alley—The Colony—in Toledo, Ohio. My mom would spend hours there as a child, watching him bowl, helping set the pins, and just hanging out in the mustiness and smoke to the sound of pins falling, high fives, and the happy, loud woops of people passing time together.

When my mom was 17, he died of a sudden heart attack. His death left a gaping hole in the community and an even larger one in my mom’s heart.

 Growing up, I would get so scared whenever a thunderstorm would be rumbling outside my window, lighting up the sky. My mom would lay next to me and tell me that there was nothing to be frightened by: The thunder merely was my Grandpa Harold, bowling up in heaven, successfully getting a strike. I loved the visual of that, thinking that those thunderstorms were nothing really to worry about, that in a way, it was just my grandfather up above finding a way to say hi.

When Zoey was little, I would tell her this story whenever a thunderstorm would roll in. I passed on the memories of my grandfather my mother shared with me, and in doing so, although I’d never heard his laugh or watched him bowl, keeping these memories alive somehow made me feel connected to this man—someone whose blood courses through my own veins—even though I’d never met him.

The other day, Zoey and I were running into a store as big raindrops splashed on our heads and dripped down our faces. Our hands were slippery as we held them against one another. We heard the faint sound of thunder in the distance, and Zoey pulled on my arm to make us stop. With her free hand, she pointed to the sky.

 “Great-grandpa Harold is doing okay today, but that didn’t sound quite like a strike,” she said, and his memory—the one we’ve created of him together—suddenly joined us, present and palpable in Zoey’s pensive, happy moment.

* * *

So when I asked Zoey Eli’s question, this was her 6 word answer:

Great-grandpa Harold: He makes rain happy.

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My Grandpa Harold would have loved her so very, very much, and I’m sure he’s up there somewhere, smiling, happy to know that he’s playing a part to ensure that his great-granddaughter isn’t fearful whenever a storm comes her way, happy to know he did the same for me.
Talk about leaving a legacy.

* * *

So in as many words as you want (or only 6 words if you’d like!), I’d love to know: Who would you go back in time and hug?

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At The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.

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12 thoughts on “Going Back in Time: The Story Behind the Hug

  1. I loved this month’s 6 Word Challenge. Like Zoey, my response was directed at a beloved and dearly missed loved one – my dad who passed away when I was 6 years old. I also think we could all benefit from channelling your response; hugging our selves at our low points with the reassurance that things will be ok.

  2. This post touched me more than you know. I lost my mother last summer and think about ideas like this for my children, particularly my daughter who did not get to meet her. Love this idea and that it brought you two together in a special it sounds like.

  3. Your post made me teary eye as this reminds me of my mom whom I considered as the true definition of a best friend. She was the one who gave me confidence, supported and challenged me and genuinely loved me for who I really am. So, if I could turn back the clock, I’m going to hug my best friend: my mom.

  4. wow what a powerful story (and great photo) really iconic of that time period!

    So I have never heard of 6 work stories – until like two days ago I saw a blogger post about having her 8th grade students do 6 word memoiors and I thought that was such a cool exercise!

  5. Oh this warms my heart! My six-word story would be “Grandma Frances: Know you are loved.” I never met her. She passed when my mom was only eight years old. She made a very radical decision for the era and was going to visit a friend in another state who was leaving her husband. Divorce itself was taboo, as was leaving behind your three small children to help a friend. But she knew her friend needed her and she went, but was killed by a drunk driver on the way. My grandfather, mother, and aunts were none too pleased with her leaving, but of course loved her more than anything. I know she knows that, but it is also great to hear. I love this whole concept! Lovely post, as always!

  6. Zoey nailed it, and I’m glad you wrote this post! I knew the story because you told me. I wished for everyone else to know it, too.

    This wound up being a meaningful six words to many people. I never know when I first send out the prompts what we’ll wind up with. Plus, no one knows what anyone else says. This one, more than most, had such similar, sentimental answers.

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