Their Hands08 Aug 2019 | relatives
I wonder if my hands resemble my mother’s hands more than my father’s…
Those strong, fieldworking, brown, feminine hands had embraced and comforted me when I was small, and they reminded me of my place now that I am grown – those hands represent my ties to the past and my connection to the future.
Yet, those of my father are simply a white blur. Somehow, in my mind, my mother’s hands are youthful while my father’s hands are aged. If I attempt to imagine his hands, I see myself squinting from a distance trying to make out strong, sunburnt, masculine hands.
Through a vivid memory, or not, remembering my parent’s hands gives me a sense of direction.
The hands of my mother are strong because an incalculable number of women carried and brought new life into the world. Just as my mother nursed others to good health, my maternal grandmother assisted women as a midwife, and my maternal great grandmother did the same.
They are the hands that helped my hands form – their beautiful genetic code made my hands possible. They, those hands, those women’s hands, represent the strong and beneficial influence that my mother had upon my life.
As a hardworking woman who has faced many difficulties, her example guided and guides me.
The hands of my father, in turn, made hand-written letters in his absence – poetic stories that drew out my affection and made me miss him. I would wonder where he was at and reread his loving words, that he misses me “like the desert misses the rain.”
What They Did
My mother and father – they were opposites; she was tied to work and he was an adventurer.
My mother’s hands were never elaborately decorated with jewelry or fake nails. When I went through growing pains, they massaged my legs with rubbing alcohol. When I was sick, they used VapoRub to help me breath.
In an impromptu show of affection, they spanked my bottom while walking out of an elementary school awards ceremony – it was her Mexican way of telling me to keep up the effort.
Her hands showed me love and discipline, at times in silence and at other times with her voice, while my father’s hands gave me animal crackers to eat and a red hat with my middle name to wear at the zoo.
His hands kept, and lost, my letters and pictures while he was absent from my life. His hands also took me on some trips to the beachside, pointing out the strength and beauty of the ocean while giving me a boogie board, and yet those same hands always returned me to my mother.
My mother’s hands never dawdled in painting her face. She said make-up would age people’s skin and did not recommend wearing it. If she wore any, it was very limited.
To me, her beauty was enhanced by a lack of “enhancements” – she valued her gray and white hairs, saying that she had earned them, which to me expressed honesty and respect.
To this day, I have never dyed or tried to conceal my age just as she never masked the adversity of her life.
And I love how she never hid how she met my father. It happened outside of a supermarket in Mexico while she juggled groceries and three children.
His hands took the grocery bags off of hers, as any respectful caballero or gentleman would. His hands led them to hold each other’s hands in marriage. And I ask myself, were his hands firm and warm or were they rough and cold?
My mother’s hands went from making the Mexican Catholic sign of the cross to bless herself and her children to holding them in Apostolic Christian prayer. His hands were those of a free-spirit, observing Life and crossing paths with different peoples and faiths.
I cherished the nights that my mother had us kneel in prayer in front of a long-glass cup candle with the Virgin’s image on it. I also valued the freedom to question the catechism teacher about my miscarried brother and the ability to discern that he was not looking down on me from above – and, somehow, I think that my father had something to do with it.
I am grateful that I was never baptized, other than by what felt like near-drowning experiences growing up. But if my mother and father weren’t so different, and if their hands would have stayed near each other, committed to their unity, I wouldn’t have become who I am today.
I was spoken to, advised, yelled at, and questioned. I was sung to and joked with. Despite their differences, my mother’s and father’s contrasting hands formed mine.
Maybe my hands don’t resemble either those of my mother or my father. Mine are younger, not as thin as my mother’s and not as blurred in my mind as my father’s. But I want my child to memorize the color, texture, and contours of my hands. I want her to check for beautymarks and ask herself in what way my thumbs and fingers worked towards bettering our lives.
I want her to wonder if my hands are like those of her grandparents and if their hands speak, in their limited way, of her future. I hope that her answer is the same as mine: their hands are my hands, are her hands, holding the beauty of our past and of our future.