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September 1, 2011 | Featured 2, Memoir, Mr Lady, Tuesday 2

Hands Upon My Heart

{by Melinda Wentzel from Planet Mom}

(photo credit: wolfgangphoto)

When I was nine or ten, I remember well my enthrallment with my mother’s hands. They were delicate and slender, sweetly scented and rose petal-soft—so completely unlike my own nicked and scraped, callused and chafed boy-like hands that were better suited for wielding a hammer and throwing a fastball than anything else.

Mine were distinctively earthy, too, largely because remnants of dirt and grass simply refused to be removed. Or at least that was the sentiment I held for much of the summer. It was a byproduct of being a kid, I suppose, literally immersed in a world of sod and soil from sunup to sundown. Never mind my fondness of forests and rocky places, which typified a deep and abiding bond with nature—one that I’m not quite sure my mother ever completely understood.

At any rate, my hands told of who I was at the time—a tomboy given to tree climbing, stealing second base and collecting large and unwieldy rocks. Everyone’s hands, I’d daresay, depict them to a certain degree, having a story to tell and a role to play at every time and every place on the continuum of life. Traces of our journey remain there in the folds of our skin—from the flat of our palms and knobs of our knuckles to the very tips of our fingers. As it should be, I suppose.

For better or for worse, our hands are the tools with which we shape the world and to some extent they define us—as sons and daughters, providers and professionals, laborers and learners, movers and shakers. That said, I’m intrigued by people’s hands and the volumes they speak—whether they’re mottled with the tapestry of age, vibrant and fleshy or childlike and impossibly tender. Moreover, I find that which they whisper difficult to ignore.

Likewise, I’m fascinated by the notion that ordinary hands routinely perform extraordinary deeds day in and day out, ostensibly touching all that truly matters to me. Like the hands that steer the school bus each morning, the hands that maintain law and order throughout the land, the hands at the helm in the event of fire or anything else that smacks of unspeakable horribleness, the hands that deftly guide my children through the landscape of academia, the hands that bolster them on the soccer field, balance beam, court and poolside, the hands that bless them at the communion rail each week and the hands that brought immeasurable care and comfort to our family pet in his final hours. Strange as it sounds, I think it’s important to stop and think about such things. Things that I might otherwise overlook when the harried pace of the world threatens to consume me.

If nothing else, giving pause makes me mindful of the good that has come to pass and grateful to the countless individuals who continue to make a difference simply by putting their hands to good use. For whatever reason, this serves to ground me and helps me put into perspective how vastly interdependent and connected we are as a whole. Indeed, we all have a hand (as well as a stake) in what will be.

Equally important, methinks, is the notion of remembering what was. More specifically, the uniqueness of those I’ve loved and lost. A favorite phrase. A special look. The warmth of a smile or the joy of their laughter. Further (and in keeping with the thrust of this piece), there’s nothing quite as memorable as the hands of those I’ve lost—like my grandfather’s. His were more like mitts, actually—large and leathery, weathered and warm. Working hands with an ever-present hint of grease beneath his hardened nails, and the distinctive scent of hay and horses that clung to him long after he left the barn. And although decades have passed, I can still see him pulling on his boots, shuffling a deck of cards and scooping tobacco from his pouch—his thick fingers diligently working a stringy wad into the bowl of his pipe, followed shortly thereafter by a series of gritty strikes of the lighter and wafts of sweet smoke mingling reluctantly with those from the kitchen.

Of course, my grandmothers’ hands were equally memorable. One had short, stubby fingers and a penchant for biting her nails to the nub. Always, it seemed, she was hanging wash out on the line, scrubbing dishes or stirring a pot brimming with macaroni—my favorite form of sustenance on the planet. By contrast, my other grandmother suffered the ravages of rheumatoid arthritis as evidenced by her hands. To this day I can picture a set of finely manicured nails at the tips of her smallish fingers—fingers that were gnarled and bent unmercifully, although they never seemed to be hampered when it came to knitting a wardrobe for my beloved Barbies.

Not surprisingly, I can still summon an image of my brother’s hands, too. Almost instantly. They were handsome, lean and mannish-looking—yet something suggestive of the little boy he had once been lingered there. Needless to say, I am grateful for such delicious memories—the ones indelibly etched upon my heart.

Planet Mom (or Melinda Wentzel, if you prefer) is a freelance writer, award winning columnist and Mr Lady’s new obsession. Her original post can be found about half-way down her page entitled “The Good Silverware”, and you can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and at Melinda Wentzel.com.

Story Editor pick by Shannon / Mr Lady

 

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amy turn sharp
Twitter:
07:48 September 1, 2011

LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Deb Rox
Twitter:
08:22 September 1, 2011

Lovely. You’ve made me remember my grandmother’s hands. She worked hard, mostly as a maid and laundress, and her hands were gnarled and bent and red from hot water and chemicals, but also so very soft. Jergens soft. She was absolutely the best part of my childhood, often the only good part. Once, years after her death, I went to a Trager massage therapist who was holding my hand and moving my arm–trying to coax a relaxation response that I was fighting. Then all of a sudden her touch felt, I swear, just like my grandmother’s hands, and I can’t even tell you the rush of emotion and memory that overtook me. It was the oddest most beautiful thing, just the shadow of an echo of the memory of her hands. And now your piece has done something similar in helping me remember that. thank you.

Story Bleed Magazine12:28 September 1, 2011

Hands Upon My Heart http://t.co/gsBgr5x

Tara R.12:33 September 1, 2011

Hands Upon My Heart http://t.co/gsBgr5x

Galit Breen13:00 September 1, 2011

Hand Upon My Heart http://t.co/KCDKAMz by @PlanetMom on @storybleed <–Heartstring tugging, just the way I like it.

Deb Rox13:23 September 1, 2011

Hand Upon My Heart http://t.co/qivTy9z by @PlanetMom on @storybleed, reminded me of my grandma, sigh.

Deb Rox13:23 September 1, 2011

Hand Upon My Heart http://t.co/qivTy9z by @PlanetMom on @storybleed, reminded me of my grandma, sigh.

Mr Lady13:44 September 1, 2011

On this day, in @StoryBleed present, @PlanetMom Melinda Wentzel shares a gorgeous post about her family's touch. http://t.co/zwqQHQy

PlanetMom14:08 September 1, 2011

Thank you, @mrlady @StoryBleed for featuring my work! And that INTRODUCTION…WOW, I'm flattered!! #handsuponmyheart http://t.co/0IAkr2k

PlanetMom14:52 September 1, 2011

Thanks, @GalitBreen @storybleed for your kind words… "Heartstring tugging…" Wow! Glad you liked the piece: http://t.co/UZHZYKD

Story Bleed Magazine00:55 September 2, 2011

Delicious memories,Hand Upon My Heart. Featuring @PlanetMom http://ht.ly/6iB3a

Tabitha Lewis01:00 September 2, 2011

Tonight I've been BLESSED & reminded of the extraordinary hands that have touched my heart!| Story Bleed Magazine | http://t.co/IGEmKgu #tc

Arianne Segerman01:05 September 2, 2011

Delicious memories,Hand Upon My Heart. Featuring @PlanetMom http://ht.ly/6iB3a

Mark12:26 September 11, 2011

I am bit similar, often I would observe and feel other peoples’ hands to guess what they do and what they are doing to put it into good use. Thanks for sharing how the hands can give us memories of people who are dear to us. The feeling my parents hands makes me remember how hard they worked in order for me to achieve my dreams.
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