My mother’s hands are gnarled with age and arthritis, but they are the warmest hands I know. I hold my baby girl’s tiny hand in mine as she sleeps and I think about hands, and love.
I think I know now, how much my mother loves me, that fierce furnace of love that would see you kill to protect your daughter, take every hurt in the world if it meant she would not have to feel one, to experience every wound of hers like it is your own.
I stopped holding my mother’s hand down the street when I was about 16, she proffered it every time only to have it rejected. I understand now her small, sad smile as she put her hands to her handbag and gripped it tightly. Because it was those hands that soothed my hurts, that swept the hair out of my eyes, that wiped the tears, felt my forehead a million times to measure my temperature. And yet my hands pushed hers away. What would people think seeing us hold hands? Would they think we were lesbians? How embarrassing to hold your mother’s hands down the street!
Now I think it a privilege.
I compare our hands when I visit. Mine white, long fingered, desk-job hands. Mum’s marked from a lifetime of physical labour; digging, planting, picking. Hers seem more capable, more honest. I twirl my wedding ring when I am nervous, roll it round and round my finger. Mum twiddles her thumbs. I watch as she clasps her brown, scarred hands together and rolls her thumbs over each other again and again. She does it a lot when I visit. I want to cover her hands with mine, to still them, to reassure them, but I don’t. Somewhere along the way I think we lost something more than our hand holding.
I watch now as her hands lay on the hospital bed blankets, they look white against the blue of the linen, and fragile. The drugs they have given her for her heart attack make her tremble, her fingers remind me of pale petals in the breeze. I lean into her, trying not to wake the baby in my arms, and give over to the sobbing, the fear.
“You are still my little girl” she whispers. We hold hands as we have not for years, and I squeeze them gently.
I consider the thousand, thousand interactions our hands have made over the years, mother and child. Mine slammed doors, hers opened them, mine covered my face in shame, fear, embarrassment – hers took them away. Hers wrapped, mine unwrapped, hers washed mine dried. Those hands that cut off a million crusts for tiny teeth, that changed a thousand nappies, that picked flowers for my room, that baked cakes, made dresses, brushed hair. Those hands are love.
I look at my little girl’s hands while she sleeps; one grips my breast, the other curls around my fingers. How long do I have before you push my hands away?
Like this story? Join this author’s mailing list for updates, free books and to be the first to know about new releases.