The Hands of a Mother

10 05 2009

I wrote this little piece a few years ago, when I was thinking about hands. I remembered what my mom’s hands looked like when I was a kid, and one day I looked down at my own and realized they looked quite a lot like hers. There are no one’s hands I’d rather mine be like. Love you, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!

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            My mother’s hands are large.

            They are not lily-white, smooth, and dainty; but are tanned, calloused, and worn.

            My mother’s hands are strong. They tame bread dough with firm pushes and punches, pull hot taffy with artistry and flair.

            My mother’s hands create. They build instead of tear down. Their warmth enfolds my smaller hands as she teaches me to sew. They are patient, kind, nimble, and dependable. Whether meting out a punishment or wiping away a tear, they are sure.

            How do you get the hands of a mother? I wonder. I see in my mother’s eyes that hands such as hers do not magically appear. Hands practice and hands learn and trials teach the lessons they need to know.

            I am a mother now. Once again, my mother’s hands guide mine, positioning my newborn’s head just so, tucking in my elbow just right. I see his downy head tucked beneath her chin, her capable hands cradling his bottom and stroking his back, communicating love and steadfastness. “There, there, Little One,” they say. “Don’t you fret. I am here. You are loved.”

            When she leaves, I cry. She hugs me tight, pats my back, and whispers, “You’ll do just fine.”

            It is the middle of the night. My baby is crying, screaming, and I can’t seem to be able to get him to eat. Now I am crying, too, and I hold him close and try to pat his back just right. Soon, he quiets. I lay him on my lap and we look at each other. All of his fingers wrap around one of my own. Next to his precious new skin, mine looks tan, and it feels calloused and worn.

            My hands are large.

            They are learning to be the hands of a mother.