Saturday, January 28, 2012

These Hands of Mine

As I stood in the kitchen the other night, peeling potatoes and preparing supper for myself and my husband, I was struck by the motion of my hands. They slid over the potatoes confidently, quickly. They grasped the peeler with familiarity and determination.  They almost made me look as if I knew what I was doing.

And they so strongly reminded me of my mother’s hands that it caused me to stop for a moment and stare. I was mirroring the motions that I’d watch her make a thousand times before; it was almost as if they were her hands.

I’ve always been ashamed of my hands. They’re slightly pudgy. Stubby looking, if you ask me. But looking at my hands as I peeled those potatoes, I saw my mother’s beautiful, elegant fingers, and I saw just how much of her I had inside me, even in my hands. It was surreal to look down and realize that such a simple thing, a thing that I’ve taken for granted a thousand times before had actually become a part of me.

Looking at them then, in the clarity of that moment, I realized that my pudgy and homely hands were in fact the perfect and beautiful combination of both her and my father’s hands, though they may not look like either.

From Mama, these hands of mine can confidently create meals for my family, meals that bring me joy and pride as I almost instinctively follow in her footsteps in the kitchen. And it’s so much more than peeling potatoes. I see her also when I tenderly touch the forehead of a sick husband, back of hand to skin, pursed lips, a softly spoken, “Are you alright?” And it takes me back to days when only a Mama could set things right again.  

And of course, l see Daddy’s hands, too, in every callus and scar on mine. When I was in high school, I had an after school job at a local barn. I cleaned stalls and fed horses and basked in every moment of it. It was a hard job. There were days when I didn’t want to go, especially when it rained. But I always went, and on those days, Daddy would work alongside me, knee-deep in mud and manure, his hands competently helping his teenager earn money to buy books and movies and all of the things she wanted and loved. He didn’t have to, but he did.

I see his hands in mine, too, when I take the hands of my nephew to either toss him towards the sky or to keep him from bolting away in the way that toddlers are wont to do. I remember holding Daddy’s hand like that as a child, hanging from his strong grip like a monkey and knowing that he would never let go.

When I look down now, I see my own hands travel furiously over the keyboard. They’re always racing to get the next word down and to breathe life into a character or a feeling. They are my hands, pudgy and homely at worst. At best, like me, they are the sum of all my parts and the parts of the people who raised me. 

Author's Note: Sometimes all it takes is looking at a "flaw" in a new way to realize it may not be a flaw after all. I don't think I'll ever see my own hands in quite the same light again. 

What do you think of your own hands? What do you see when you look down at them?

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