Saturday, October 31, 2015

Weathered hands hold lifetime of memories

From today's Briefing:

Every now and then, I glance at my hands in alarm. Where did all these veins and ligaments come from? Why didn’t that scar from Christmas 2009 heal? For real, are these actually my hands?
Yes, these are my 43-year-old freckled, slightly lined hands. And oh, the stories they could tell.
Tales of calluses from the monkey bars and from those uneven bars on 1970s playgrounds — the kind from which girls would flip and hang like opossums.
Tales of learning to type on a manual typewriter, the kind that required superhuman strength from the pinky fingers to force the number 1 and the letter P to strike.
Tales of holding my babies for the first time, of swaddling and diapering, bathing and feeding, cradling and snuggling.
Those babies keep getting bigger, and though my hands are still required, the jobs have evolved.
Right now, my hands are a little beaten up from my amateur sewing skills. Katie, who has never fully embraced store-bought costumes, has designed for Halloween this year an out-of-this-world ensemble. She is a cow in space.
This bovine space traveler getup consists of white sweatpants and sweatshirt covered in black spots and a black cap sporting a host of wires that support painted Styrofoam planets and the sun.
Katie did most of the work — planning, painting, cutting, pinning. She’s not yet comfortable with sewing by hand, so that work belongs to me and my now-needle-worn fingers. The final effect — Holstein meets the Milky Way — is totally worth it.
My weathered hands will come in handy again Saturday as I follow my cosmic calf through the neighborhood. Inevitably during trick-or- treating, a handmade accessory pops off, and a quick rescue is required. (Last year’s narwhal tusk necessitated frequent adjustments.)
I’m not complaining one iota about the sewing or the anticipation of on-the-spot fixes. In fact, I’m soaking it up in light of another turn of events: My older child is, for the first time ever, not dressing up at all.
I remember my teenager as a wiggly bear, a toddling crab, a speedy Buzz Lightyear, a magical Harry Potter, a disarming mummy, a bearded wizard, a spindly scarecrow, an alarmingly overgrown monkey.
I recall holding Cooper’s dimpled hand as we walked house to house, reminding him to say “please” and “thank you,” urging him to take only one or two pieces. I remember swiping a fun-size Snickers bar or two from his overflowing pumpkin pail.
This year he’s just one of us, planning to visit with friends, hand out candy to pint-sized ninjas and princesses, maybe swipe a Snickers or two from his sister’s bounty. That’s what happens, I suppose, when you’re 6-2 and closer to college than elementary school. You’re not exactly grown up, and you’re definitely not a little kid.
His hands are still smooth, though.
Those hands have their own tales. Of practicing clarinet, pitching tents and kayaking the Atchafalaya Basin. Of texting, cycling and lighting candles on the church altar.
For a couple of years, predictably and understandably, he wouldn’t let me hold his hand in public. Yet somewhere in the transition from little kid to teen, he started offering his hand again.
His hand wrapped around mine — that’s worth celebrating, no matter how stark the contrast, no matter how foreign my aging hand looks. We’ve both got a whole slew of stories left to discover and tell. I’ll accept every wrinkle and imperfection along the way.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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