Some memories warm these cold days.
It was a long time ago. I was probably in the second grade.
I'd been invited to Charlie Bates' birthday party. Mrs. Bates (crazy woman!) was going to take 13 boys to the movies to celebrate Charlie's big day.
The movies! I was invited to this big bash and a trip to the Cedar-Lee Theater was part of the deal!
I had one chore to do before I left for the coolest event of the year.
I had to wash a load of laundry. My Dad's.
The pile of clothes seemed simple enough. I knew the routine even at that age.
Throw in the clothes, throw in the soap. Hit the wash button. Into the dryer and a few minutes later done. Modern appliance meets second grader. A perfect team.
I was just about finished as I took the white undershirts and shorts from the Maytag dryer.
Something wasn't right. My Dad's tidy whities had a distinct pinkish hue. In fact, the whole load of whites were pink throughout: Looked more like Liberace's underwear.
And there was the culprit. A dark burgundy sock waited until then to peek out from under that cotton candy.
Do you know what happens when all white cotton washes in Hot water with a dark burgundy sock? It's not pretty. Well, actually, it is pretty. But "pretty" is not the way Dad likes to wear his underwear.
I was still in the basement laundry room when Dad came down to inspect my work.
He exploded. Krakatoa style.
The yelling was bad. Fortunately Dad was not a swatter. His punishments were more in the loss of privileges category.
And then he said it. No party. No movies. Sit home and think about what I had done. The clothes I ruined. My carelessness.
Dad marched up the steps to the kitchen. I stayed below in that dark musty basement, my head buried in pink undershirts, my wails muffled by the soft fabric still warm from the dryer.
I felt like my life had just ended. Eight year olds are like that. I agonized over the joy my friends would experience while I languished alone at home, the guilty launderer.
I don't know how many minutes passed like that, I in my solitude.
But before I realized it, I looked up and there before me again was Dad.
Now Dad was a loving and generous type but he was no hugger. He'd reserve hugs for big events like weddings or funerals. With Dad you just understrood that he loved you and like so many of his generation, physical affection wasn't shown.
However, I must have seemed pathetic. The sadness in my eyes must have been too much. The tears and the moaning.
Dad got closer and before I knew it, he'd gathered me up and gave me a huge bear hug, holding me as my spindly legs dangled in the air.
I could smell the Old Spice aftershave and his bristly whiskers scratched my face. Dad held me tight for what seemed like forever. Never before or since have I felt such a sense of warmth and love that passed between us in the silence of that dingy laundry room.
When he finally released me and set me down, I told him I was sorry.
He told me to forget it and one more thing, he said. Better hurry or I'd be late for the party.
Well, there have been a lot of parties since then and a lot of life lived.
Dad's gone now, passed away about three years ago.
Every now and then I dust off the memory of that moment and relive it in my mind and in my heart.
The Best Hug Ever.