Hands are a living narrative written by a lifetime of use. There is a story recorded in every weathered crease, a lament in every callous  and an anecdote in every scar. Our hands have toiled and cared for others. They’ve admonished and loved. They’ve conveyed exasperation, underscored points of debate, wiped away tears, and applauded revelry. They’ve held on and they’ve let go.

My grandmother‘s hands fascinated me as a child. Her fingers were bent and her knuckles swelled with arthritis, but they were beautiful to me, like a sculpture. I’d watch with rapt attention while she knitted, or tatted, or perhaps darned wool socks. I wonder now at how many meals her hands prepared over her lifetime, how buttons they sewed, or how many sheets they pinned to a clothes line. How many times did they smooth her hair, shade her eyes from the sun, or pat my grandfather’s arm?

The Mother’s Hand. 1966 by Antanas Sutkus
The Mother’s Hand. 1966 by Antanas Sutkus

I’m still watching the story write itself on my children‘s hands. As I grow older, I think back on the feeling of their small hands in mine.  Now they are grown and their hands give care to others in need, conduct scientific research, and create art that uplifts and challenges. One day, they will have children and mine will be the hands that fascinate.

I’ve recently slipped into the space next to friends and held their hands as we engaged in conversation. There is something about this gesture that makes me feel little girlish again.

Hands hold meaning. With our hands, we create objects or break them down; we communicate emotions or secret them away. So many of the expressions we use relate to hands and their contrasting purposes — nurturing versus punitive, gentle versus harsh, or helpful versus discomfiting. Lend a hand. Hands off. Open handed. Back hand. Hand out. Underhanded. Hand to hand.

Perhaps this is most lovely of all of all — hand in hand.

“The Sisters” by Delgadina
Photo credits: Ludmila Yilmaz and Hussain Khalaf .

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