When I was little, I was fascinated by my mother’s hands. They were long and slender, well groomed with brilliant nail polish—although she did go through a rather unfortunate period of gluing on false nails (and losing them in the shag carpet…)—but what I really loved were the tendons. The skin on the back of her hands is thin and you can see the tendons and veins moving underneath, weaving over one another. It was like peering inside of her body whenever she worked. I used to like to push them around a bit, watch what shifted with a morbid curiosity….She didn’t like her hands; they were working class, strong from years of shampoos and pincurls, cleaning and painting. As she grew older, they became gnarled with arthritis. Her entire life is there, in her hands.
My father’s hands were square, with short fingers and closely trimmed nails. Capable working class hands as well—carpenter’s hands, scarred with little dings from work, sunburned and callused. He held a cigarette between his second and third finger, drove with one hand on the steering wheel low down, other arm out the window, held small animals firmly but gently as he introduced new members of the household to one another. The held the world safely when I was little and piloted us home at night on dark country roads.
I have my father’s hands—strong and square, often dirty, callused and cracked, nothing long or elegant here. I notice this most often on long drives, when my hands hold the steering wheel in the same way, low down, one arm out the window. When I was a baker, I thought that maybe, the tendons would become more prominent, but that only happens on hot days in summer. There is no watching my inner workings. But, as I grow older, and begin to draw more, I see the connections to her hands, long and slender, in my work.