Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Grandmother's Hands

Just a few evenings ago I was reading to Harper.  As she sat in my lap, my hands laid on top of the oversized book I read to her.  My concentration was in the words of the book, trying to allow my voice to emote the feelings of the characters and what they were saying and feeling.
It was a few minutes into reading that I felt Harper’s little fingers outlining the tops of my hands.  No longer did she seem as interested in what I was reading as she was in my hands...her grandmother’s hands.  Harper’s small fingers traced my thin skin, the veins that I suddenly noticed were beginning to show, the wrinkles and age spots that appeared overnight.  She was gentle, curious, memorizing these hands that she loved so much, yet whose hands were so different from her own, from her younger mother’s.  She said nothing, I kept reading but in my mind I remember that moment so poignantly.
I loved my grandmother, Minnie Momma, dearly.  If she were still alive today she would be around 125 years old, but even to my young mind’s eye Minnie Momma was always old.  She was a very poor woman and had nor needed little.  She grew up in the country in East Texas. Her mother died when she was 8 years old, her husband died at 42 of tuberculosis as did her eldest daughter about 10 years later.  Minnie had a tough life, she took care of the family farm and her younger daughters until moving to Houston.  Minnie never drove a car, never wore polish, never wore a bra...simply a full slip under her dresses.  She was a quiet woman, soft spoken and kind, but she had her faith and she had her opinions and she would speak her mind when the time was right.

As a small child I would spend a week at a time with Minnie Momma in her small unassuming home.  Oh how I loved it there.  She had no air conditioning instead open windows framed in crisp white crisscross organza curtains.  Big box fans blew the warm humid Houston air through her little home and living right by railroad tracks the sounds of slow moving trains and their long whistles continues to be soothe my soul.
I loved sitting in my grandmother’s lap snuggled beside her in her oversized rocker.  She would sing hymns, gently talk and read to me.  I strongly remember holding her hands in mine as I sat so placidly still.  

I remember her hands...her thin fragile skin, almost translucent.  I remember thinking how different, how special they were from anyone else’s hands.  The tips of her fingers, soft and pillowy, when I pressed their tips they would stay indented for just a moment too long.  She wore two small diamond rings on her wedding finger, they were loose and she would always twirl them unconsciously between her small delicate thumb and ring finger.  Why were my grandmother’s hands such an important part of my memory?  Why when Harper and I had our little exchange several days ago did it touch such a cord within me?  I began thinking of the significance of hands all that they can convey, all that they are capable of doing.  
For several years I took American Sign Language classes, thinking I might like to be an interpreter for the deaf.  I loved those classes.  I love that there is a beautiful, rich, complete, silent language that totally relies on ones hands for communication.  I’m still enthralled watching interpreters speak this wonderful language to the deaf, it is like watching a graceful ballerina’s feet describe music in an entirely different manner.
Hands convey love, they express directions, commands, enhance emotions. Hands are our tools, think of a world without hands...building, art, cooking, writing, hugging.  How important to a small child would a life be without guiding hands, loving hands, mentoring, teaching hands?  Hands are the part of the body that displays the greatest sense of touch they are how we reach out and seize and embrace life and all that is most precious to us.
Sadly there are also hands that cause harm.  Abusive hands, angry hitting, slapping, shoving hands.  Those are hands that cause such damage to our small fragile children, oh how we must guard our young ones, all of them, from hands of hate and anger.
When I think back and picture myself as that small little girl, sitting in my beloved grandmother’s lap, her voice has fallen silent in my mind and at times her face has become dim over the years but it’s her hands that are so vivid to me. I can see and feel Minnie Momma smoothing out my dress, running her soft gentle fingers through my hair, ever so gently caressing my shoulders, back and hands with hers.  It was here I felt peace, love, comfort.  It was her hands that gave me confidence that she would always do everything possible to protect and encourage me.  I will never forget my grandmother’s hands, they taught me much.  
I am a far cry from the humble unassuming woman that Minnie Momma was, but I pray that in my own way my grand children may find the same legacy she left me.  I pray that as Harper looked at my aging grandmother’s hands she felt all the love that I have in my heart for her.  
I know that as she grows older she will no longer have the desire she does now to crawl up in my lap and allow me to hold her, run my fingers through her curls, pass my hand up and down her little back nor play with my hands as she does now.  But perhaps someday in the far distant future, as she is holding one of her little grandchildren in her own lap she too will find the legacy that lies in the amazing warm and tender touch of a grandmother’s hands.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” Henri Nouwen

Psalm 90:17 “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;

    establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.”

I gave this entry to Brooke last week and she published it in Alamo City Mom Blog.  I asked her if I could share it here as well, so some of you may have already read this entry.
A little side note, I'm so proud of Brooke's new endeavor in starting this city wide blog for not only mom's but it's a great source for grand mommies as well .  A resource of what all San Antonio has to offer and a look at what a mom's life is like--uncensored.  Just thought I'd throw in a little advertising for the girl!!

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