I went for a manicure when I got off of work today. I went because I believe that one day I’ll find a miracle manicurist who will transform my hands into a thing of beauty. Ha! Between the broken nails, the hives and the bruise from dropping a can of corn on my thumb, she had her work cut out for her. The moment my over-padded tush hit the chair, a string of expletives came gushing out of the manicurist’s mouth. (At least I think she was cussing, as she yelled in her native tongue of Korean, to her husband.) I had no doubt that she was saying “Look at these hands. What does this lady do with them? Does she think I can turn a sow’s cloven hoof into a silk purse”…or something like that. She was probably just yelling at him because he forgot to take the trash out, but I have my doubts.
My friends have lovely hands, soft, smooth, with well-formed nails that scream out “Polish me!” The first two things I notice about a person are their hands and then their eyes. It’s just my thing, partly because I always wanted pretty hands, but I have the hands of a farmer who doesn’t farm. They will never be pretty, or soft, what with all the washing dishes, bathing children over the years, frequently soaping up my hands (because I’m something of a germ-a-phobe), weeding, doing crafts, painting, plucking and pressing guitar strings, and don’t even get me started on preparing meals using chicken. My husband is convinced I took a course at the CDC on how to sterilize a kitchen when preparing chicken, meat, or fish. The only things that aren’t encased in a Hazmat suit are my hands. I tell ya, they’re scary.
After what seemed like hours of filing, cutting cuticles, and enough lotion to fill a tanker, it was time to go home. My daughter looked at my hands and said, “Pretty.” That’s when I heard my mother coming right out of my mouth. “These? No. They’re just old used up hands. Look at how dainty and lovely yours are.” My mother never thought she had pretty hands and it struck me at that moment just how wrong she was.
Sometimes when I’m getting ready to hyperventilate, or have my blood pressure checked, I think of one fleeting moment in my past. I was sitting down at the kitchen table and I can’t remember if I was sad, or had done something wonderful, but all of a sudden my mother was behind me. She cupped my chin in one of her hands and with the other she stroked my cheek. I remember leaning back into her, feeling nothing but comfort and peace.
This is what I remember of my Mama’s hands. Not how they looked, but how they felt. They caressed and comforted, they consoled, they danced when she talked, they healed, and above all else, they conveyed her love. I wonder what my daughter sees when she looks at my hands. They are strong and worn, but they always reach towards those I love. Maybe, just maybe, the manicurist wasn’t yelling about how awful my hands looked, but how much she saw in them. I can hope, can't I?