I was going through my children’s memory books that I put together at the end of each school year for them. In my youngest daughter’s preschool scrapbook, I came across a picture of my daughter when she was about 3 years old standing next to my mother, her grandma.
My daughter was adorned in princess attire a ruby crown, fuzzy plastic high-heeled shoes, a beaded wand, a brooch necklace around her neck to match her ruby crown, her Barbie princess nightgown, a big smile, and her hand in Grandma’s hand.
I have written many times about my mother. She passed away about six years ago. The last 10 years of her life were spent with us in our home. Her presence was a daily part of our lives. She loved my children, as well as her other grandchildren. They loved her. I loved her dearly.
I studied that picture for a long time, recapping many memories of her time with us. I was especially drawn to her hands, with my daughter’s hands embraced in them.
Her hands were a physical symbol of safety, security, love, and wisdom that she gave to all of us over the course of her life each wrinkle representing each labor of love throughout her beloved life.
My daughter’s hand was small, soft, unblemished except for maybe a scrape or two representing her young life and all she has to live her hand embraced in my mother’s hand, protecting and loving her.
Children instinctively know this about their grandparents, about elderly people. Their hearts are open to the wisdom, acceptance, and nurturance that grandparents provide. They are not scared of the outward signs of aging the wrinkles, the bony knobs, and the unfirm skin. They know that these physical signs of aging are labors of the boundless giving over the years.
My kids all loved to feel grandma’s wrinkled hands. My niece would rub Grandma’s hands as if they exuded and wrapped her in safety and comfort. They would caress grandma’s skin that no longer was taut on her arms. They brushed her gray hair over and over. This was an expression of their love and respect for Grandma and all she had lived over her years.
I miss those hands. I take ownership for some of those wrinkles. I remember when those hands wrapped around my hanging phalanges that got wrapped in a hay elevator. Without even a second thought, my mother realigned my fingers, wrapped them in a towel with ice and held me as my father drove me to the doctor’s office. I will never forget how secure I felt in my mother’s arms.
I remember when my twin brother was hit by a car, while he was bicycling home from the neighbors, and how my mother held him while he was crying, hurting, and scared.
I am ever so grateful that those hands embraced me, comforted me, and loved me over all of those years. I can only miss what I had, and I had love. Those wrinkles were testaments of all the love and sacrifice my mother gave for so many years.
My own hands are wearing their “wisdom,” as I like to call it. I have earned the wrinkles I now wear. As a mother, I know what mothers endure. Our hearts are always vulnerable as our children grow and fall sometimes, and experience triumphs and difficulties. And I know that my hands have embraced and loved my children, and, hopefully someday, my grandchildren will want to hold my hands and know how loved they are.
Every child needs the same knowledge that they are loved, comforted, and cared for. Every child needs loving hands to embrace and hold them.