My mother’s hands

The dermatologist walked in, gave me the quick once over, face, back, neck, shoulders, arms, and finally my hands.  With both of my hands in hers, her head tilted slightly to one side as she says, “These dark spots on your hands are hereditary.  They’re nothing to worry about, but they’re definitely hereditary.”  At this point I expected her to suggest some lightening cream or cosmetic procedure, some sort of fix to amend the genetic damage. Before she could make any suggestions I interrupted.  I thanked her.

Before I go on, I must share that I have very few crystalline memories from my childhood.  The majority of those years are little more than a blur that time and repeated head injuries have smudged into memory mud.

One of my most lucid memories, however insignificant it might seem, is of a random Sunday morning.  The uncomfortable seafoam green church pew.  The smell of Ivory soap and Jungle Gardenia perfume.  The rice paper thin texture of the hymnal pages as the book was being held for us to sing…being held by my mother’s hands.  I remember studying her hands in detail.  Her long fingers with long natural nails, sometimes stained from summertime berry picking.  Thumbs that flex backward like those red, yellow, and blue flexi straws at Dairy Queen.  Working hands with rough spots, sometimes a bandaid, one nail shorter than the rest, veins visible over the bone and sinew, with a sprinkling of slightly darker spots across the backs from knuckles to wrists.  I’d look down with tightened lips, judging my pale pudgy childish digits, yearning to have her hands.

Now, in my late 30’s, I’ve had my mother’s hands for years.  The long fingers, abnormally tough fingernails, bone, sinew, and veins all visible.  Yesterday, by mere choice of words, the dermatologist gave me the gift of my grandmother’s hands too.  “These dark spots on your hands are hereditary.”  I got them from MY mother.  My mother got them from HER mother, and no cosmetic procedure will EVER take these spots from me.  They are perfect, and I will wear them with humble honor and respect for the women with spotted hands who came before me, whose bodies literally made me, held me, raised me, gave me their skills, provided direction, and gave me gifts of life and knowledge…for those hands I am blessed.