My mother’s hands

February 18, 2015 § 11 Comments

My mother’s hands were always busy, and usually with a needle of some sort.

Trained as a needlework teacher, she could conjure up clothing without breaking a sweat – a wedding dress, a school jersey, a yellow gingham playsuit for a four-year-old me, or a dress with bold red flowers that I wore to a wedding as my teenage boyfriend’s plus one. She embroidered tray cloths with tiny, precise cross stitches. She upholstered small items of furniture. She crocheted blankets for our beds in every colour of the rainbow, and she even knew how to make lace.

If I wanted something new to wear, we seldom bought it, because the budget simply wouldn’t allow. “Let’s go to the shops,” she’d say. “We’re going to steal with our eyes.” We’d trail through the clothing stores and I’d point out what I liked. Then it was off to the fabric shop, the one only a few people knew about, which was tucked away in an obscure industrial street.

There the choices were endless and the prices low. And we’d step into a wonderland of colours and textures, of linens and silks, brocades and cottons, of stripes and spots and flower-sprigged prints. I’d follow behind her through walls of buttons and rainbows of fabric till we found something I liked. And a day or two later I’d have a garment that looked like it was made just for me. Because it was. And no-one would ever guess it was home-made.

In the genetic lottery that produced the body I inhabit, I realise I have my mother’s hands and my father’s fingernails. They’re not beautiful hands by any means, nor are they as adept as hers were. They’re scarred and wrinkled, and stout and square. They’re the kind of hands that would send a beautician running for the hills.

But these hands can run up a dress or a cushion cover, and they can knit, and they can cook and bake and play the piano. They can touch type, they can write a letter, they can pull out weeds and change a tyre. They can wipe away a tear, or smooth the expanse of my children’s brows while they sleep. They can hold your hand.

And while I may not have my mother anymore, she’s not completely gone. For when I look down at whatever it is I happen to be doing, I have her hands to remember her by.

* This blog was written as part of a ‘two bloggers, one topic’ challenge devised by Dave Luis and me. We’ll be doing this for a couple of weeks, and you can see what Dave wrote about this topic at http://www.bloggsymalone.wordpress.com.

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