Your hands are so soft, and delicate – so pretty – like a painting. Pale, smooth skin like milk. Your beautifully manicured nails are polished with a light tint of rose – really, your hands should be in an advert for skin care or nail polish or age-defying something. I can’t stop staring. You really have beautiful hands.
Not like mum’s. Mum’s hands were many things, but beautiful was not one of them. Her hands were bent and one of her fingers was twisted in a weird way after she had a nasty fall. Her hands were small, the skin wrinkled and blemished, with calluses and scars. Her nails were brittle, ugly and bitten to the quick. They often bled from her constant biting. Mum was ashamed of her hands and would always fold them away in photographs. Her hands were not picture material.
Life left all its scars on mum’s hands. She didn’t have an easy start. She came from a broken home and she was the eldest who fought to protect and help raise her sisters and step-brothers. Her own marriage failed and after my father died she was left to raise four children on her own, with no legacy from dad. All her anxiety and fear and anger at the cards she’d been dealt was carried in those hands and she’d bite her way through her nails, as if they were the real obstacles in her life, that she could overcome by consuming them, as they tried to consume her. She bore that difficult life out in her hands, and it showed.
And yet, when I look at your hands, and I think of mum’s hands, it’s hers I long for – because no matter what pain the world had put me through, no matter how hurt, alone or sad I felt, when she lifted me up in those hands – those battered, ugly hands with their twisted little bloody fingers – she held the world out. Those two gnarled hands all by themselves held a world of pain at bay, and filtered in love and a safe place. Those battered hands nurtured and protected me.
Mum’s hands would never be appear in a picture, but there is no picture more worth looking at, than a mother’s hands – than my mother’s hands, because of all the love they held.
© Dave Luis 2015. All Rights Reserved.