I looked down and realized that, despite my best efforts to never have my mother’s hands, I had failed.
Growing up, I was always very aware that my mother’s hands didn’t look like those of my friends’ mothers.
Her fingers never sparkled with jewelry or nail polish. The only ring she ever wore was a simple gold band on her left hand, and her nails were always cut short so dirt couldn’t accumulate under them. She never considered polishing them, and, as a teenager, I brought the first bottle of nail polish into our house.
Neither were my mother’s hands soft. They were rough from all the tasks she required of them.
And she required a great deal.
When I was a child, she always had a meal on the table, her house was always spotless and the laundry was always done and hung on the line to dry. She canned and froze the vegetables and fruits my dad grew in his large garden and she sewed almost all the clothes I wore. She made bread from scratch and biscuits from memory. As a Girl Scout leader, she taught me how to start a fire, put up a tent and forge a trail. And when she wasn’t being a mom, she was a photographer and a journalist. She dragged my brother and me from everything to train wrecks to hippie communes to worm farms.
By the time her day was over, she didn’t have the time, energy or interest to soak her hands or massage them with lotion. Her hands were too busy turning the pages of a book.
I was an adult before I realized that I had no reason to be embarrassed by my mother’s hands. They were simply a reflection of whom she is, which isn’t whom I am at all.
I don’t like to cook, and my house is never spotless. I haven’t canned or frozen any vegetables since she stood at my side teaching me. And I refuse to sew anything.
And yet, as heredity would have it, I now have my mother’s hands not because I have labored as she did but because I have labored in my own ways.
My hands, like her hands, are rarely idle. My hands, like her hands, have chosen meaningful work over vanity. And my hands, like her hands, have taken care of two children in the best way they know how.
As I look down at my hands now, I am no longer shocked or even bothered. Instead I am proud that they reflect who I am: one in a long line of women who are true to themselves, true to their families and true to their beliefs.
Even if we aren’t true to fashion.