Crinkly skin, dark spots, and easily bruised...the 84 years Mama has been on this earth have taken their toll on her hands.
Mama does not like her hands. But I love them.
These precious hands represent so much....
As a young girl growing up poor in North Carolina, these hands grew strong and able. They carried wood, climbed trees, scrubbed floors, toted water. Being the third-born in a family of ten children, Mama's youthful hands grasped the hands of her younger siblings as they walked to school together. They learned to be steady wielding one end of an old crosscut saw as she helped her Daddy cut down a cedar tree from the nearby woods to decorate for Christmas each year. Those hands held fishing poles and her finger still bears the scar of a wayward fishing hook from a childhood mishap.
As a teenager Mama's hands created beautiful penmanship and earned her top academic honors at school. Summers would find those hands callused and nicked, stained by the tobacco leaves she picked to earn a little money for school clothes. Those dirty fingers would curl around a Pepsi and hold a nab during precious breaks in the 'baccy field. Mama used those same hands as a waitress in a local diner to serve a burger and fries to a handsome Marine who a few years later would become her beloved husband and our Daddy.
Mama's hands learned to handle cold metal piston rings during a brief stint working at Perfect Circle as a newlywed, then honing her sewing skills during her spare time. Those hands cooked three meals a day for more than 60 years as she fed her hungry family the best homecooked meals imaginable. Countless times I've watched in awe as those hands moved quickly and deftly to form biscuits and pat them in the pan nearly every morning of my life. They've rolled out innumerable pie crusts, kneaded yeast dough, snapped beans, and washed dishes. Those hands have scrubbed clothes and hung them out on the clothesline to dry long before clothes dryers were available.
Mama's hands made her a master seamstress, creating everything from matching Easter dresses for us girls to work shirts for Dad to wool suits and jackets for all of us. They sewed Santa costumes and hacky-sack balls and wedding dresses and draperies and everything in between. There was nothing Mama could not sew! As her children began leaving home and she had a little more time, Mama created hand-pieced quilts, each one painstakingly hand-quilted until the ends of her fingers were bruised and bleeding from needle pokes.
While sewing was her favorite activity, Mama was crafty in other ways too. Those hands of hers crafted stilts out of wood scraps for us to play with as children. Mama changed thousands of diapers and always loved to give her newborn grandchildren their first baths. She could and did make anything she set her mind to. One of Mama's legacies to us all is teaching us that we can do ANYTHING we set our mind to do. She knitted, crocheted, made baskets, dabbled in painting, wallpapered her home, played the guitar, decorated many birthday and even wedding cakes...all using those precious, capable hands.
But what Mama's hands represent more than anything else is love. Never one for much jewelry, there are very few times we have ever seen Mama's hands without her wedding rings. Even during their golden years together, Mama and Dad loved to walk together holding hands. Mama's hands have wiped away more tears than she ever shed herself. And there is no better comfort in the world than to have Mama's hands wrapped around our sobbing shoulders during life's disappointments and heartaches.
To the rest of the world these hands look worn out, beat up by life and ravished by time.
But to me, they are beautiful reminders of a most precious life well-lived and well-loved.
I can only hope that my hands will someday reflect a fraction of the love that I see when I gaze upon...