by Judith Allen
Written on my birthday about the changes in hands and how they mirror the generations.
I woke up his morning with old hands. I didn't notice them as I straightened the bed or made my coffee and buttered the toast. They didn't call attention to themselves as I put the leash on the dog to go for a walk or rinsed the dishes and put them in the dishwasher. They went all morning doing all the ordinary things, being the same hands I have had all my life.
Then in the early afternoon when I sat down with a book and a nice cup of tea, my world changed as my hands brought attention to themselves when I lifted the cup to my lips for my first sip. I abruptly placed the cup on the table and held my hands up to take a better look. What's this, I thought. What is with the prominent veins and brown spots I can no longer call freckles? What about the thin, wrinkled skin on top while my palms are still soft and smooth, the square nails in need of a manicure? Where did I get these old hands?
As I studied them in disappointment and horror for they had changed so, I began to see that they were my grandmother's hands. They were strong and capable and kind. Her hands bathed me as an infant and caressed my forehead when I was sick with fever. They made me chicken soup and cherry pie. They made dresses from print material, braided my hair with shining white bows and gave me hugs. I loved my grandmother's hands.
I looked some more and saw that they were my mother's hands. They drew me lovely pictures for my room, tried to teach me the piano - quite unsuccessfully but I got to watch the lovely hands on the keys. They strummed the guitar, made me paper dolls for my collections and wrote stories to read to me at night and they tucked me securely under the soft covers with my tattered teddy-bear. The petted animals, loved beauty and brought all this magic into my life. I adored my mother's hands.
As I looked at my own hand which so recently seemed so old and ugly to me, I saw them through generations of work and giving. I began to smile. Through these generations and the things my own hands have done that my children may remember with warmth, I see these hands not as old, but as well-used and loved and they make me happy.