Reclining for comfort

Did your family ever have one of those early recliner chairs?  Who got to sit in it?  I actually sat in ours quite a lot, if Dad wasn’t around, but it was definitely his chair.  I was looking for a clip of Melanie’s Dad Earl and his recliner chair in Sweet Home Alabama – the chair he’s so proud of which ends up swallowing Andrew’s mother the Mayor (‘mare) played by Candice Bergen long before she played Cuddy’s similarly unbearable mother.  But the best Youtube could find for me was Joey and Chandler in their recliner chairs.  Still very funny.

I was watching Andy Murray playing tennis on Saturday with my sister and older nephew.  Younger nephew was watching Cars 2 in the play room but older nephew is a budding tennis fan and sat through the whole match with us.  Well, I say sat.  Part way through the match I ended up snuggled up to my sister, leaning on her as we watched the game.  I was grateful for her indulgence – she and my Mum are probably the only people I feel easily comfortable leaning on, probably in more ways than one actually.  But the loveliest part was when my nephew came and fitted on the sofa as well, snuggling up to me seeming surprisingly unself-conscious.  I guess I was in his spot really, but no-one seemed to mind.

Simple physical affection is one of the things I miss most through being single.  I know nephews and sons frequently go off such demonstrations as they get older but I hope it’s delayed for a while at least with my nephews.  I was talking to a church friend who complained her son rarely hugs her any more.  I’m afraid my response that ‘some of us are lucky to get a hug from one month to the next’ came off more bitter than it should have done, and I was grateful when she deliberately hugged me later in the weekend.  I don’t want to be needy but I know the longing for human contact is rather hard-wired.

I like the fact that Jesus is mentioned as reclining at the table in the Bible, and that his close friend John is leaning on him even as he is troubled about being betrayed.  I guess even Jesus needed the closeness, comfort and support of his friends.  I know some people have suggested that Jesus’ relationship with John suggests he might have been gay, most recently Paul Oestreicher in the Guardian but also former Bishop of Birmingham, Hugh Montefiore.  I don’t think there’s enough evidence either way, but I guess I’m not repelled by the idea as some Christians clearly are.  I’ve said before that the verse in Hebrews which says Jesus was tempted in every way but did not sin could mean he experienced attraction towards someone of the same sex.  It certainly suggests he experienced sexual frustration without sinning.  It seems facetious to point out that he was killed, resurrected and ascended before getting to my age.

Anyway, I’m not suggesting that the reclining thing has sexual connotations, perhaps particularly because of my recent, very platonic closeness with my sister and young nephew.  It was just really nice, and cute once my nephew got in on the act.  There’s the rather obvious metaphor about leaning on one another, and the Bill Withers song, Lean on Me was one of the first songs I sang in multiple part harmony with the youth choir in Bath.  I like the reciprocity in the lyrics:

“Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long, ‘til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on”.

The song was first released just over 40 years ago, but it’s been covered a lot, probably because the need for mutual support and encouragement is one thing that never gets old.  Even if sons and nephews and tennis players and films and tv shows and recliner chairs and I do.

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