Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My mother's hands

My mother died in December 1999. At her funeral my aunt, in an effort to comfort me, told me to touch her one last time, not to be afraid of her body now that she was no longer in it. So I did. I went up to the coffin and I touched her hand. I don't know why people use the word "cold" to describe the dead. Mom wasn't cold; she was hard, stiff. In the act of touching her hand I knew that she was gone completely, that I would never have her with me again.

Those hands should not have been stiff. My mother's hands were where she expressed her life. From my earliest memories those hands were on the move. She "worried" them all the time: moving them back and forth, gently wringing them, turning small objects over and over in them. Her favourite worry object was the humble bread tie. When we were kids and she was doing her damnest to raise us on her own, we would snuggle into bed with her and find hard plastic bread ties scattered all over the sheets.

She also had her own way of pointing at objects. Instead of holding her hand like a gun and pointing as most people do, she held her hand flat, parallel to the ground and gestured with a curve to her pointer finger and a curve to her arm. It's hard to describe this action of hers but it was all hers. No one had hands that moved like my mother's.

Until now. My daughter was born with my mother's hands. I noticed it right off when she was still making fists that she constantly stuck in her mouth. At seven weeks, I took her to meet my family and some of my brothers and sisters noticed it as well. Miss M has my mother's hands, their shape, their movements. The pinky finger is curved, almost as if she were missing a knuckle. This biological quirk was detected inutero at 18 weeks gestation. But it's not just the pinky that's curved. There's something about the shape and movement of her hands that is best described as "curvy".

Now that Miss M is eager to expand her vocabulary, she has discovered the utility of pointing. She points at everything, hoping that I will give it a label. And yes, she has my mother's flat-hand, curved-movement, finger-point. I don't know much about who Miss M will be yet but I do know this: her life and her birthright are in her hands.

The Sorting Shelves (for a description of what the Sorting Shelves is all about see the March 15th post)
The Frog Prince and Other Poems by Stevie Smith. Longmans, Green and Co. 1966.


Omaha Mama said...

And so nice to see you in my reader. :0)

Reluctant Housewife said...

Beautiful post.

My younger son inherited my mother's chutzpah. It's a hard quality to describe, but he often reminds me of her in his determination. "Chutzpah" is the best word I know to describe it.

Kyla said...

I was very excited to see you in my reader!

This is gorgeous, Mad.

The curved pinky is a dominant gene, I learned that in biology this semester. I can mentally do a curved pinky pedigree for 3 generations of your family with the info in this post.

Magpie said...

Good morning, Mad. Happy to see you here.

It's so intriguing how those traits, physical and otherwise, get passed along - and to whom.

Anonymous said...

I loved this when you first posted it. Lovely and sad tribute.
It is wonderful to "see" you in my Reader AND I voted for you twice!
(your) Anon

Jenifer said...

This is so timely...well sort of.. Hubby's first cousin in Greece passed away last night at 36 years old. I wonder about the lost possibilities of a life not yet done.

Loss in December seems to haunt me.

This was a beautiful tribute to your Mom and I feel your heart pouring out.

Mary G said...

I love this post - you so clearly adore your child and your mother.

I've voted, as they say, early and often.

painted maypole said...

so excited to see you in my reader as well, but this is dated 2006. curious. I'm assuming that's the original date you wrote this, particularly from your description of Miss M.

my husband preached at my grandmother's funeral, and he spoke about her hands. About her quilting. About her cooking. About how, weeks before her death, lying in a nursing home unable to speak, to reached out and felt my pregnant belly.


they really do have so much to say.

beautiful post. 10 years, huh? oof.

Quadelle said...

What a beautiful post. I imagine you must be flooded with all kinds of memories this month, and perhaps every time M points. What a wonderful, intimate link between the two females who are your past and your future.

I was hopeful this meant you were back. I won't hold my breath, but it was lovely to see you in my reader.