During my lifetime, I saw my mother’s hands perform a variety of actions. They kneaded the most delicious homemade bread. They spanked my brother when he lied. They held the hands of residents in the nursing home as they took their last breath. They planted flowers and did needlepoint. They would sew and paint and carve wood… they even did macramé and decoupage when it was in vogue. They attempted to hang wall paper and rung the necks of chickens we would later eat.
Average size, they were soft, age spotted but with nails cut fairly short and never polished. Well, except for her thumb nails. Those nails she kept longer and pointier (still no nail polish). I have a theory she could have filleted a fish with those thumb nails. Even when I would visit the nursing home and trim her nails for her, she frequently told me the thumbs were “just fine and leave them alone”.
The thing I remember most about her hands involved my feet and cross country practice. I would get home after doing 6-8 miles and after supper she would ask if I wanted her to rub my feet for me. I honestly don’t remember at the time if I knew that it was hard for her to do that, as the arthritis was starting to move into those small joints, but she was so very good at it and my feet felt so much better afterwards. In my 20s, I would think of those times with guilt for being self-centered and maybe causing her pain.
It took me until my own child arrived to understand. As a drum major the arms are frequently out and up and that triangle in the middle of your back gets tight and sore… especially after an 8-4 Saturday practice. I volunteered to rub those sore muscles the other day. Knowing my hands would ache after, as arthritis is starting to move into those small joints… but I didn’t care. Small price to pay to see your child relieved of pain.
I saw my mom’s hands on my kid’s back, understood and let the niggling guilt go.