These Are My Hands

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2017 Barrett Winner

2nd Place Deborah C. Springstead

These are my hands.

They remind me of my youth. These protruding wrist bones remind me of the numerous front walkovers and back handsprings to which I’ve subjected my body. This ragged, faded scar on my wrist reminds me of summer camp, a time that was blissfully free from peer pressure, and divorcing parents. These callouses around my finger nails remain from a nervous habit that developed during the awkwardness of puberty. When I manicure my nails I remember the summer that I turned 13, and my mother first let me wear iridescent pink nail polish.

These are my hands.

They’re clever hands. From a cute math teacher, they learned how to count from 0 to 31 in binary. From the back cover of a Helen Keller biography, they learned the American Sign Language alphabet. From my father, they learned how to pick up a single grain of rice with chopsticks. From my baby sitter, my hands learned how to carefully craft origami. My index fingers know precisely how to hold my tongue in order to whistle, and silence an unruly crowd. My hands love to thread crochet snowflakes for friends.

These are my hands.

They remind me of my mother’s hands, which are graceful and expressive when she speaks. Hands that used to glide effortlessly over the keyboard when typing term papers for classmates at college. Hands that used to knit sweaters, and play folk songs on guitar. Hands that love painting with watercolors. Hands that are failing her with age and Parkinson’s, as they may one day fail me.

These are my hands.

They are also my mother’s hands, and were her mother’s hands before her. I wonder how many women before me have been blessed with these graceful, dexterous hands. How many women before me have used them to prepare meals, plant gardens, restore furniture, darn socks, and pen letters? When I look at these hands I think of all of the women who have had them before me, and am grateful.

These are my hands.

I love these hands.