My mother always told me you can tell a woman's age by looking at her hands. "They can get all the plastic surgery they want," she'd say, "but their hands will always reveal the truth."
Since then I took a keen interest in hands. I'd notice all types of hands, little hands, fat hands, rough hands, hairy hands, fragile hands, big hands, and the like. But the only hands I ever truly wanted were my mothers. A perfect blend of strength and delicacy, I watched them for years as I was growing up. I watched them performing ordinary tasks, like grading her student's tests or turning the ignition in our car. I'd watch them as she tapped her pencil on her desk and the queer way she held her books as she read - her pinky and thumb acting as spreaders while the remaining three supporting the book with a single hand. The other only used when a page needed to be turned. I watched as she did things I could not, like sew a button onto my school uniform or apply nail polish to her long nails. I watched as she tapped them nervously on the kitchen table when it was time for me to go visit my father and I watched as the nails became shorter and shorter as the divorce became longer and longer.
Every day I watched my mothers hands. Counting the veins as they rolled along the back of bones when she moved them. I'd look at her hands and then look down at mine. Mine were pale, short and without any distinguishing feature. My nails were gnawed off even though she fussed at me for biting them, the ends where the nail met the skin was constantly tearing from nervous biting. I cracked them religiously, another habit which got me reprimanded, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't keep polish on for longer than a day without it chipping. "They'll never be pretty like mom's," I'd tell myself.
Then one day, I stopped looking. I went to college, went to law school, started a career and began my own life. I no longer had time to count the veins on the back of hands or take note of what color nail polish anyone was wearing, or if they were even wearing nail polish at all. I had more important things to deal with: school, bills, grades, loans, work, relationships, friendships. Who has time to notice these things when there are so many more important pressing matters?
Last month my mother had an operation. A serious one. When I walked into the room at the hospital I noticed an IV in her hand, the tube jutting violently from one of the delicate veins I had once counted. It was as if I was seeing her hands for the first time, only they weren't my mothers. Someone had stolen them and replaced them with a completely different set of hands. The veins could still be counted, but these hands were frail and the ends had grown thicker somehow, as if years of bending them had finally caused them to cease their nimble movement and rest in a sedentary state.
It didn't take me long to realize who the culprit was. I looked down slowly at my own hand, cradling the pen I was writing with and saw my answer - I was the thief. There, at the end of my own two arms were the hands I had envied for decades. I stretched my fingers long and saw the white under my nails showing, thick and strong. I watched the veins as they rolled over the back of my bones and watched the soft skin stretch and cover each crevice as I bent my fingers. The cuticles were pushed back, just like my mother had always taught me and I had stopped biting ages ago.
Finally, my moment had arrived. I had my mother's hands. The only thing I regret is that I was too busy watching everything else around me to notice when the change happened.
And while these hands may look like my mothers, they are hers in appearance only. These hands will never truly be my mothers, because only my mothers hands could provide safety and warmth with a single touch. Only my mother's hands could sew an entire quilt made of old T shirts without having to re-do a single stitch. Only my mother's hands could hold my hair back as I got sick and make the nausea dissipate instantly. Only my mothers hands could hold mine as she fell asleep on the floor next to my bed every night singing Disney songs to me. Only my mother's hands could hold me when I cried or pick me up when I fell down.
My hands may not be my mother's hands, but I hope one day they can accomplish a few things of their own. If they can create and provide even half of what my mother's have, I will consider it a victory. And now, when I look down at my hands, I don't see pale and unremarkable features. I don't see years of biting and chewing and cracking. I don't see the countless flaws I always did when I was younger. Now, I see my mother.
Note from the Author: While I usually post more "self-help" style blogs, I've been wanting to get this one out for a while. I have no idea if my mom will ever even read it, but life is too short to keep these things inside. This blog is a platform for all forms written expression: articles, reviews, poems and love letters; even ones like this. Love you, mom.