My grandmother’s hands are not very pretty. They are square, rough and somewhat pudgy with short nails. They are the hands of a woman who will do what must be done. She is not a romantic. I don’t think she has ever painted her nails. But those hands made some of the very first dresses I ever wore. They were smocked and lacy and beautifully feminine. My grandmother loves with her hands, with the perfect food she makes and the sweaters she still knits for us. When I look at her hands, I see 70 years of loving and living as hard as she could, the only way she knows.
My mother has ‘forever after’ hands. They are delicate, soft-skinned, the nails shapely and clean. One has to explore my mother’s hands thoroughly to feel the bones. They are sharp, steely, not easily broken. You don’t want to mess with my mother’s hands. You don’t want them to hold them while they feel good only to let go later. My mother’s hands are lucky. Everything she touches gets better. My mother’s hands know when to let go. But they remain outstretched, waiting for you to come back.
My stepmother’s hands never stop. They must drive, cook, balance a phone and write a cheque all at once. Her hands are ever ready to reach out. They rush to straighten a tablecloth, to make a presentation, to console a husband. My stepmother’s hands are dark. Sometimes, they clench when she thinks nobody is looking. My stepmother’s hands will never have it easy, there aren’t always enough people to hold them.
My hands are pale, compared to the rest of my sun-burnt skin. When sitting in the backseat of a car with the boy I like, my hands inch closer to his, hoping....hoping. My fingers click on my phone as I text message...faster than anyone in my family. My hands are always on somebody’s shoulder or massaging somebody’s head. My hands are how I touch people.
So much separates us. Age, divorce, awkwardness, hidden resentments. I imagine all four of us sitting in a huge circle, our hands not touching, but our forefingers linked by invisible threads. Through these tentative bonds, we hand down recipes, wicked wisdom, whispered gossip about relatives. We manipulate and stay connected. Despite the distance and differences, we stay together. You could almost say we're hand in hand.