I love hands

October 18, 2008

I love hands.  They are the most telling feature of a person, aside from the eyes.  By looking at someone’s hands you can determine how much life they’ve lived, what sorts of jobs they’ve had, what their talents are. 

Compared to average fingers, mine would qualify as long.  I have hard nails that grow in a nice shape, with solid white tips, like a natural French manicure. 

Truth is, my hands are my favorite feature.  So you can imagine my dismay when I looked down at them on the steering wheel and realized my youthful hands had been replaced by my mother’s. 

What happened to the smooth skin, accented by just enough little scars on the knuckles to prove I’m alive?  I can’t even see those scars anymore.  They are lost somewhere in the faint lines and crinkles.  

I’ve always liked getting older, believing that people aren’t taken as seriously when they are young.  But when I looked down and saw my fingers gripping the steering wheel, wrinkles didn’t seem as sophisticated as I’d imagined they would be. 

I didn’t feel wiser or more articulate.  And I didn’t feel old.  In fact, I didn’t feel any different whatsoever.  My hands aren’t supposed to look like this until I am worldly and cosmopolitan, like Jackie Kennedy, or a consummate lady like Audrey Hepburn, or saucy and spicy like Elizabeth Taylor, or well-spoken and poised like Oprah Winfrey. 

I always wanted my hands to look like my mother’s, because I assumed that once a woman’s hands looked like that, she would know the ways of the world.  I’m not ready for wrinkled hands.  I barely know my way to work.

At second glance, I was struck by another painful realization.  My hands don’t look like my mother’s, after all.  They look like my father’s.  More slender, more feminine, but definitely dad’s. 

This really shouldn’t be a surprise.  Everybody who knows me knows I look more like my dad than my mom.  There will always be that little girl in me who watched my mother in awe, waiting impatiently for the day when I would grow up to be curvy and beautiful. 

I will never forget the day in the eighth grade, the year I grew five inches and only gained three pounds and my joints kept popping out of place in protest, when I hugged my mom and looked down at the top of her head and realized, in anguish, that I was never going to look like her. 

My hands were my last hope, and here they are, getting wrinkled and turning into my dad’s, just like the rest of me.   

Perhaps the most difficult part of all this is that it now occurs to me that maybe my mom doesn’t know everything.  Maybe her hands got wrinkled and she didn’t feel any different either. 

Maybe Jackie Kennedy didn’t feel glamorous, and Audrey Hepburn didn’t feel regal.  Maybe Elizabeth Taylor considers herself neither saucy nor spicy, and maybe (gasp!) Oprah doesn’t always know exactly what to say in every single situation. 

Maybe one day they were driving along, being insecure and imperfect, and they looked down and saw their mother’s hands on the steering wheel.  Maybe these women I admire are just women.  And maybe that’s enough.

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus October 18, 2008.