As I rocked L.E. to sleep for her afternoon nap, my eyes drifted from her face–chubby, rosy cheeks and long eyelashes reminiscent of her father’s–to the hands that grasped her shoulder. I was surprised that I almost did not recognize them. Wrinkles. Blotchiness. Scratches. Funky shaped nails. And best of all: blueberry stains on my fingertips. And I realized, they looked like the hands of a mother…
My own mother wore braces on her wrists to ward off the pain built from carpal tunnel. Long hours at the hospital and three young children at home seemed to be, quite literally, weighing on her. When I fast forward the years, I see her digging in the mud and planting flowers on a Sunday afternoon. She would wash off her dirt-caked hands at dusk and then get back to work, this time in the kitchen. Those hands would hold our own as we prayed and passed the potatoes. On the special occasions that my mom would drive me to school alone, she would reach across the console of her ford taurus and place her hand, open, palm face up. An invitation for me to let her in. In those moments, I felt nothing but love and complete security as we held hands, talked openly, and drove alongside cornfields. In the embraces with her as an adult, I am brought back to that same feeling.
My Grandma Lorrie was my pen pal until an unexpected fall took away her ability to write. Her handwriting was as graceful and elegant as she is. As with everything, she takes her time when she writes and her thoughtfulness shows in every thank you note and letter she has sent through the years. Her long fingers give way to perfectly-shaped nails, and her thin, delicate English-heritage skin reveals her healthy veins. Her talent lies in those hands–quilt-making, cooking, scrapbooking, and painting. When she tells a story, she creates a precise visual with her fingertips clicking as they come together. Even now, I long for more stories of hers at her kitchen table while we nibble her home cooked food.
When my mind settles on the last memory, I see my Grandma Ginny, G.G., sitting on her rocker and knitting, the quintessential image of a grandmother. I take comfort in that image because I always know what to expect with her. She taught me how to knit and type with those hands–always painted fingernails and long, thick fingertips that were always put to good use. When, I came to her third grade Sunday school class on the morning my great-grandmother passed away, a stream of tears began, and she immediately and gently lifted me while the other kids looked at me with confused and sympathetic looks. Her hands embody the comfort I felt in her presence as a child.
So, if I have learned anything from my own mother and grandmothers, it is that through our own imperfections come stories of love, devotion, and care. Care to others and care to ourselves. I welcome the scratches accrued from a temper tantrum or the blueberry stains from breakfast because they all mean that I took part in this beautifully, messy thing called Life.