My mother always said that she did not like her hands. “They are stubby,” she would say. “They are wrinkled.” She never wanted to wear any rings beyond her wedding ring because she did not want to draw attention to her hands.
I would always shake my head and disagree with her. My mother’s hands were dainty, capable, and strong. These were the hands I would run to as a small girl needing comfort. They were the hands that would hold my tiny hand firmly because I had a tendency to wander in the grocery store.
I would sit by my mother’s chair in the evenings and her hands would reach down to absent-mindedly play with my hair while we all relaxed together. It was the best feeling…her hands stroking my hair.
My mother’s hands created wonderful meals. Her specialties—before we all knew to worry too much about fats and cholesterol—were fried chicken and fried okra. Her hands tolerated all of the little spatters of hot oil popping out of the heavy cast iron skillet as she prepared her family’s favorite meal.
My mother’s hands took care of our home, comforted us when we were sick, applauded our every success. Hers were the hands that so capably navigated our boat around the lake for hours on end while her teen-aged daughters took turns skiing. My mother’s hands eventually helped me pack boxes and move out to build a life of my own. My mother’s hands were always ready to welcome me back to the nest when I needed reassurance.
In her later years, my sister Terry and I found our mother’s hand slipping in to take hold of our hands. We became her security through days when she felt confused and lost. And in the end, I held my mother’s hands to say goodbye. To wish her Godspeed to a world where her hands would no longer wring in confusion, but instead embrace what was surely her great reward.
Today I glanced down at my own hands. I don’t have attractive hands. My fingers are a bit short. The skin on my hands is weathered from years of working outside without gloves. My nails are constantly in need of attention, yet rarely receive it.
But, my hands are strong. They can haul a bale of hay, control an excited horse. My hands are gentle. They can sooth a frightened animal. They can cradle a newborn baby. My hands can coax a tiny orphaned squirrel to eat.
My hands are creative. They can turn a ball of yarn into a warm scarf. They allow my thoughts to pour from my mind and into my computer. My hands can manipulate a pencil on a piece of clean paper to create an image.
My hands love to my hold love ones’ hands, to reach out to give hugs, and to help wipe tears away. My hands tend to gesture a lot when I tell a story.
No, I don’t have smooth, graceful hands. But when I look at my hands, I see my mother’s hands. I feel my mother’s touch.
My hands, I think, are really quite beautiful.