Sunday, 5 October 2014

Her Hands

Her hands can move me to tears, they just can and always have. From the memory of my head in her lap, with her stroking my hair and the scent of onions on her fingers, to the cracks that appear in each crease and more when she has toiled too much. Watching them bob and weave as she knits and talks so effortlessly. Seeing that bulbous vein, the blue one that has always liked to stand proud. I have watched it for years, ever since I first noticed it when we lived amidst the tropical heat of my fathers homeland. The heat would conduct an experiment against her skin and I would watch for changes throughout the day. I would note when that blue vein had swelled and grown in size.  Sometimes more of them came. They would come for many reasons, from carrying our food from the market, miles and miles in the burning heat. From washing each member of our households clothing by hand with the cheap soap they rightly called 'don't touch me'. From hours spent hand stitching our school uniforms and there were four of us children, each of us required to have at least two uniforms plus others for chapel and for 'away' outfits I think they were called. The hours she spent, with me sat between her knees, comb in hand trying to make sense of this hair of mine so unlike her own. After bringing my hair together, she would carry out the same thing each time. I can still feel the last scooped hand movement on my head, where she would start at the centre of my forehead and draw her scooped hand backwards, finally patting at my hair trying to flatten it. I think of the days when she would patiently demonstrate different sewing stitches. I remember just the way she would reach inside her special sewing box and place the thimble on her middle finger. I can see it glistening in the light with each cycle of the needle being pushed through the fabric. I thought then and I think now, how clever her hands are. How lucky I am to be near to those hands. 

It was these hands that I pictured when I waited for her to come home off a late shift in my teen years. These hands that I knew would have drawn the keys from her handbag in the last stages of her bus journey in readiness to open the front door. The hands that for many years were tainted by her use of cigarettes. The ones that I could anticipate her picking at like a hobby whilst she smoked her cigarette. The same hands that swaddled my newborn son when he was barely hours old, those same hands that held him so expertly for his first bath as I stood back to observe and learn, noting that thumb and forefinger hook that supported my newborns head so easily. The same hands that I held in my earliest memory, where she led me to a sweetie shop to buy a packet of chocolate buttons and it was just her and me, probably a first memory because it was so rare for it to be just me and her and I held onto her hand as tightly as could be, somehow afraid to loosen my grip. Her hands are now morphing into her own mothers hands, this comes I guess with the passing of time. One day last year I watched as she clasped those hands together as she captured my sons, her two grandsons in her arms. That's when it struck me that they were no longer the hands of my mother, but the hands of my grandmother. Familiar and unrecognisable all at once, like so many parts of our intertwined life. Part of me begrudgingly gives up the old hands, recognising that I cannot keep them forever, not on this earth anyway although I am sure they are buried deep within my memory forever more. Part of me looks to my own signs, my own history, my own hands and I see some small traces of her. Right there in my hands. Right there as I look down upon them. I look and I stare. I keep looking and as I do I feel them changing, even in that moment. Changing forever, just like her and I, forever changing, forever intertwined.

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