Friday, April 04, 2008

Hands of Heritage

I have never liked the look of my hands. I remember hating them at my Junior Ring ceremony where all around me were delicate, slim, long fingered hands. I fought and fought to not have their picture taken on my wedding day. I lost that fight but never put the picture in the album.

My hands are big and large knuckled. They are peasant hands. Made for labor. When Chowder's soft, graceful, ballerina hands can't open a jar, he hands it to me where my no nonsense construction worker hands deftly pop it open.

Even though I sometimes catch myself hiding my hands, I have slowly grown more fond of them. Grown to admire their strength. their heritage. For I have the hands of my mother. Hands that cradled my newly born body. Hands that bathed me and brushed my hair. Hands that confidently held a rifle and earned marksmen awards. Hands that tapped the steering wheel in time to Emmy Lou Harris. Hands that caked with dirt working the garden.

And I have the hands of my grandfather. Immigrant hands that worked the street crew in Chicago. Hands that came home in February cracked open and oozing. Hands that my grandmother poured hot wax on, to seal the cracks so he could go to work again. Hands that dragged his body and those of his fellow Marines through the dirt and mud of Germany, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Hands that held my hands as he bounced me on his knee. Hands that gripped a glass of Bushmill's that he would bring down with a bang on the table to emphasize his point.

And I have the hands of my great-grandmother. Hands that placed pennies on the eyes of 6 or her 11 children. Hands that that worked hard cleaning the houses of others. Hands that baked bread and made meals out of an empty cupboard. A left hand that she would turn into a fist and shake at the kids and yell, "Six months in the hospital!" and a right that she'd shake and yell, "Sudden death!"

No, I still really don't like the way my hands look. But I see my heritage in them. Every time I work the garden, or protect my family, or cradle a lost little one, I feel generations of strength and perseverance and faith flow through my hands and I know that they will be strong enough to do what needs to be done. They are the hands that attend to the work of life. They've done the business of birth and death and cared for their loved ones in between.

15 comments:

gem said...

That's a lovely way to look at yourself, especially bits of yourself that you don't like.

Jenni said...

Beautiful. I feel the same way about my hands (got em from my father--big, square, farmer hands).

However, the lost little ones part in the last paragraph has me a little...concerned...is everything still holding steady for you?

Jenny said...

What a powerful way to look at your hands.
Great stories. Maybe you should write a novel - an epic, following generations.
Imagine pouring wax on the cracks in your hands... ouch.
I have unattractive hands too. Short stumpy fingers. I'm more concerned about hiding my expanding middle age torso!

valerie said...

Ooh, well written! I haven't been commenting much, but thinking of you a lot.

Melanie said...

Ooooo! Love this post!

Anne said...

This is beautiful, Kate. I also have large hands--bigger than most men's and I can't ever wear women's gloves ... but I sure can do a whole lot better with them than display some cutesy material. Thanks for the reminder.

Mel said...

Time to look at my big ugly veiny hands in a new light, beautifully written darling. xxx

Multi-tasking Mom said...

I'm awestruck! Beautiful post.

Paula said...

This post really touches me. Like you (and others) I have large, veiny hands. I have never liked them, either, but I too recognized a while ago that they look just like my grandmother's hands. I still don't wear fingernail polish since I don't want to draw a lot of attention to them!

julie said...

Great post. Your words were beautiful.

Julie

gem said...

Hope all is well.

Anonymous said...

Have been checking this week for an update post. Hope all is well. xoxoxo
Tracee

valerie said...

Thinking of you.

Elizabethw said...

You are truly an amazing writer. I love the way you view things and the way you express your thoughts.

Elizabethw

Frantic Home Cook said...

That was beautiful. Thank you. I needed that as someone responded to a photo on my blog with 'You have fat hands.'

What a lovely reminder that it's what I do with them that matters.

Francie