As a child, I remember the soothingly cool touch of my mothers hands. Her palm on my forehead calmed me, made me feel it was all okay. As she smoothed back my hair, tucked me into my covers, or held my hand while we walked, her smooth, cool palm eased my little anxious soul.
When she read to us, at bed time, I would study her hands holding the book. I remember how different our hands looked, mine were small, clear, and usually dirty, while hers had road maps of the story of her life. There was so much written there: tending of a homestead gardens and farm, hours of writing and schoolwork, the words they said in the fluid language of ASL, her nails always cut short and clean – a small bit of self care all mothers need to remember. The backs of her hands were soft, worn, creased and lined. Yes, they were more wrinkly than my ‘new’ hands; I didn’t see that as a draw back but as a meaningful asset. Her wrinkles were love, attention, and the outcome of the value of hard work: beautiful. Her hands told her story, her hands were the well known tale of her life. She talked with her hands.
Today, when I look at my own hands, I see the bumps and the creases, the star indentations in the skin, and the canyons on my fingers made by my rings. I see the skin shiny and stretched thin over my knuckles when I flex my fingers, and the multitude of wrinkles and creases when I flatten my hand on my lap. And I am reminded of my mother when I was young, her soft, cool, and confident hands, that soothed away my fears. Reflecting on my wrinkles, I see hands that have changed many diapers, cleaned up many toys, and folded mountains of laundry. But I also see hands that have soothed cuts and bruises and burns, fingers that have gently held tinier fingers gripped tightly learning to walk, and hands that have slowly worked out many knots and tangles.
My hands are not my mothers, though they are similar. Her hands tell the story of her life, her worries, her scars and her triumphs. My hands tell my journey; they reflect where I am in my life today. Often my nails have chipped, peeling nail polish, put on by my eight year manicurist. Dirt lingers beneath every nail that is long enough, remnants of my day working. The backs of my hands usually are scratched or scrapped from caring for the animals, bringing in firewood, or fighting rose bushes. My hands also bare the scars of my life: a deep scratch from a piece of metal in 7th grade, a small line were the kitchen knife slipped, another thicker line is a gouge from building a box with my husband for the girls Christmas present. And on each of my ring fingers, a ring of love from my partner. This is my story, my tale to be told.
In my children’s growing memories, I wonder what will be the calming, soothing, and gentle from their childhood. I hope they remember the coats zipped and mittens tucked, the tears wiped and the bandages applied, the silly stories told with extreme and elegant gestures, and the hands held while we wait for the bus or anticipation of a shot. But perhaps they will remember something different, like my smile, my laugh, my arms, or my lap. I am sure they will remember and reflect on different moments, as we all do as we grow.
For me, in my reflecting and remembering, it is my mother’s hands that hold the memories of gold.