There is little more to which I look forward upon my return from my weekly travels than a welcoming embrace from my model wife.

That is home.

It wouldn’t matter if we were living it up in the Hills of the Beverly in sunny Cali with a private chef, three maids and a Mr. Belvedere to make things go smoothly or if we were just barely surviving in the outback of the modest country of Liberia where one must scrape the mud off their hole-filled boots with a gator tooth they saved from last night’s meal — as long as I get to walk into the arms of my wife and hug my boys after a wrestling match for the last glazed donut, that’s home. All the rest is icing on the cake.

What’s in a hug, after all? What blessed thing have we taken for granted all the years which now you become the town pariah and looked down upon with such disdain the neighborhood dog begins to confuse you with a fire hydrant if you so much as cross the proverbial 6-foot force field to offer your perfectly healthy loved one a bear hug? It’s nothing more than a couple of arms around your person, pulled close for a few seconds to help make you feel cherished if only for a moment.

It’s a welcoming of a brand new baby with delivery so recent from the stork the father is still handing out the bubble-gum cigars and the families are still gathering balloons and cards. It’s a first birthday party action with such excitement the kid doesn’t know what else to do with family all around and a large plate topped with a sweet-tasting mound that everyone continues to encourage him to destroy. The men tear up, knowing that a perfectly good chocolate cake will momentarily meet its imminent demise when with cunning wit and a few moments alone with the velvety platter of sugar and carbs they are quite certain they could have quickly and quietly found a temporary home for said mound.

What’s in a hug? It’s thorough description eludes me at the moment.

Need it be anything more than a son telling his father with style and then some that he is the best dad in the world after spending some time together on the video games, or playing a round of soccer, or being shown how to properly tape a cat to a ceiling fan? It is the mid-afternoon weekly tea party to which you arrived just before the queen, and in fine style to sip and gab with the bell of the ball as she goes on about the daisies and the mad hatter.

Could it be the welcoming into Grandpa and Grandma’s home at Thanksgiving time as she pulls the fresh-baked rolls from the oven and opens the freezer to your favorite chilled ginger crinkles? It’s that much-desired response from your mother after you present to her what in your mind was the best cinnamon-vanilla French toast ever. In reality was snubbed by the dog, however one would never have guessed by the loving response she gave you on Mother’s Day, because she cared more about the effort than the outcome, and sometimes that’s all we needed to hear. It’s that gift from your favorite aunt who went out and bought pizza rolls and ice cream sandwiches because she knew your family was coming to visit and set them aside just for you. Yeah, maybe that’s what’s in a hug.

It’s the breaking down of walls built with harsh words after a fight between two long term friends. It’s the mending of fences with close neighbors and distant relatives. It’s the universal language for “I’m sorry,” “I missed you,” and “welcome home.” It’s a most difficult step for a parent to watch their child get on the school bus for the first time and surrendering to the inevitable that their little one is growing up. It’s the seal of the accomplishment on the day of their graduation, the hard goodbye to their college student, and perhaps the harder goodbye to their newly enlisted solder.

Is it a wife’s hopes that you will return safely, and soon, the toasting to a new son-in-law or daughter-in-law? It’s the stealing and spoiling of a new grandchild and perchance all we can muster as we say farewell to a grandparent who may have taken you out in the boat early in the morn before the sun awoke and taught you how to fish, or shoot, or fix a car, or make the best chocolate-chip cookies this side of heaven. Maybe that’s in a hug.

I must admit after all these years I have yet to regret a single hug I have given or disliked one I have received. There is just something so magically indescribable about this very simple, and encompassing, and free show of affection. Maybe we haven’t had enough, and we could use a little more of that rather than the condescension. Maybe we’ll never get enough hugs long as we live, but then again ... that’s just my humble opinion.

Toby Baker is a family man and eclectic style guru.

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