Thursday, January 27, 2011


I sit in the sun coming in the window looking at my hands. They are really old. There are brown spots and dry, tiny waves of creases on the backs of my hands.  If the skin was any shade of green they could be part of a scaly lizard. 

I always thought my long fingers must be from my father’s side. He was tall, therefore it seemed a reasonable conclusion. But then one night I was sitting on the couch next to Nan, my grandmother (Mom's Mom). I held her hand in mine. It was warm, soft and made me feel happy. I looked at our hands together. I held hers up to mine, palm to palm. We matched exactly. 

She had some arthritis. Her index fingers were twisted like cork screws. This made the index nails twist toward the long finger (The FU finger) almost facing the palm. If her nails were sharper she could have opened a bottle of wine. 

My hands looked old (I thought) when I was only forty. Thin skinned. If the hands were arranged in a downward position all the veins filled up. The backs of my hands appeared to be wriggling with earthworms right beneath the surface. I’d raise my hands up in the air and the veins disappeared. Wave those hands in the air. Hallelujah. People think you're nuts if you walk around with your hands up in the air all the time, and your fingers go numb after a while. 

I worked at a advertising studio in the Renaissance Center in Detroit in the eighties. One night many of us were working late. One of the illustrators needed to illustrate a woman's hands. I was the only female in the place, so Mike came into my room and asked if I'd model my hands for him. I said, "Sure". Then he checked out my big hands, looked totally distressed and said, "I'll check Joe's hands".

Oh, well, I never had modeling ambitions anyway.
But know this: I have magnificent hands. They do things. Most important, they feed me. I really like that. They can pick a white hair off a black sweater with no problem. They type. They squeeze the cheeks of my husband when I want to give him big smashing kisses. They can hold a paint brush and move it wherever I want it to go. They are wonderful tools. I should learn sign language, then they could talk.


  1. My hands and feet are just like my mother's. Once, as I padded around barefoot in my grandmother's apartment, my Mimi said to me, "It looks as if your mother's feet have come visiting." I wear my mother's rings on my right hand. When I hold it UP I see that she is with me...all the time.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I always felt the same way about my own hands. A boyfriend (ha!) once told me that my fingers 'look like sausages'. Well, the boyfriend didn't last long, but my hands can still do things most peoples' hands can't. So, I figure they are the way they are for a reason.

  3. Margarete, your hands are among the most talented I know.


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