It started one day when my little nephew, Zach, and I were playing trains on the living room floor. I was so overcome by his chubby cheeks and dimples that I had to scoop him up in my arms and give him a big hug. As I squeezed the little blonde butterball, I said, “Squish!”
The next day I watched the 1½ year old toddle around Granny’s kitchen, looking for something to entertain him. I went to the toy box. “Come on Zach, let’s play trains.” Trains were old news. He ignored me and suddenly became fascinated with the garbage can lid. “Zach,” I mock-scolded him and put my hands on my hips. “Come over here right now so I can give you a squish.”
Suddenly his bored expression broke into a wide, sparse-toothed smile as he let out a nervous giggle. I coaxed him again. He took a few small steps toward me and raised his two arms shoulder level. “You have to come closer for me to squish you.” I persuaded. His anxious laugh came out in spurts now as he tried to hold it in. I planted firmly, forcing Zach to take each cautious step towards me. When he was close enough to grab, I put my arms around him in the open spot he’d left for me. “One…two…three…SQUISH!” I said as I squeezed his rib cage quickly, then released. The force squeezed out a tiny, unexpected yell from Zach, like air from a whoopie cushion, followed by uncontrolled laughter. I leaned back, allowing him the freedom to leave if he wanted, but he remained, waiting for another with his arms up. “One…two…three…SQUISH!” Another yell, then laughter. From then on, whenever Zach was bored, cranky, or pouty, all he needed was a good squish to cheer him up.