My View

My mother’s hands

May 18, 2013 

I have limited recollection of my mother taking me by the hand when I was younger.

Those few memories are limited to snapshots of mother holding my left hand with her right hand and holding my younger sister in her left arm as my older sister stood close by.

Memories of mother holding my hand are centered on her protection of me. Not one time did I notice the size of her hands. All that mattered was that she was my mother.

I once dated a young man who feared my mother’s hands. He said, “Have you seen your mother’s hands? They are huge.”

Rejecting the remark, I chose not to answer. Needless to say, he wasn’t around very long. Though I never noticed, thank goodness for the size of mother’s hands.

When I began receiving a steady income for my work as a lawyer, I decided that my mother deserved a diamond ring. Mom and Dad are children of the Depression, therefore, a marriage certificate, not rings, was important to them.

I purchased mom a ring with 5 mine cut diamonds representing each member of our immediate family. I remember that her ring size is 11 and that I needed to have the ring adjusted to slip over her knuckles swollen from rheumatoid arthritis. Not one time did I consider the size of her hands. She is my mother.

Mother has always worked with her hands. As a child she sewed tobacco sacks to earn money. As a teen and young adult she primed and looped tobacco. Mom shucked corn, shelled peas, baked cakes and pies. She never considered the size of her hands.

As an adult, mom assisted in raising her nieces and nephews before having her own children. This required changing cloth diapers, rinsing them in the commode and then washing them on a washboard. Mom made lye soap in the big black pot over an open flame. A smaller black pot and open flame was used to cook the annual church Brunswick Stew. Those hands stirred the stew with huge three-prong stick. Neither the church members nor her extended family considered the size of her hands.

Mom quilted and cross-stitched. She sewed all of our dresses when we were smaller. Each year for Mother’s Day the three of us received a new dress made from one pattern. She sewed a larger dress in powder blue, a medium size dress in pink and a smaller dress in yellow. As people commented on the three sisters in their spring dresses, no one commented about the size of mother’s hands.

During her 50s and 60s, mom worked as a CNA. She changed adult diapers, fed patients, changed beds and cleaned rooms. Once, she forgot that she is afraid of horses and climbed into a horse stable to find one of her lost Alzheimer’s patients. Not one of her many patients considered the size of her hands.

Mother surprised me a few months ago. While out and about, she reached to grab my hand before walking across a parking lot. She will be 90 this year and the act was instinctive on her part. Each time she reached, I received her hand and led her to our destination, shielding her from traffic and the rush of busy shoppers.

While at a track meet in Maryland, she reached for my hand as we exited the van. I received her hand in mine. Our hands were eye level, and I noticed that my hand did not encapsulate her hand. I realized that my mother has large hands. I realized that now the roles are reversed. Though her hand is still larger than my own, it is my turn to guide, shield and protect her.

As we celebrated Mother’s Day last weekend, I was astutely aware of calluses on the inside of mother’s hands left by years of hard work. I was astutely aware of the soft baby smooth exterior of her hands. A smoothness that only advanced age can bring about.

As I reminisce a small portion of the journey of those hands, I am grateful for them and I want them around for a very long time. I don’t care about the size of those hands because they are my mother’s hands.

Beverly Scarlett lives in Orange County.

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