"My hands are small, I know,
But they're not yours, they are my own…."
I have always looked younger than my years. When I was a teenager, this was twelve kinds of devastating. When you're a fifteen-year-old girl under five feet tall and have no discernible breasts, it's unlikely you'll be chosen for the coveted task of braving a bottle shop to procure liquor for your underage pals. No, that esteemable position was left to the willowy girls who had bloomed good and early and good and proper.
Being asked for ID well into my 20s was, however, awesome.
Long after my boobs arrived and I hit five foot (and stayed there), my hands remained stubbornly childlike. Small and sort of spongy, they were the hands of a little girl. And they bothered me.
My mother's hands were so different. Bigger than mine, adorned with understated jewels, and nails painted in varying shades of pink, I thought they were strong, capable, beautiful. Underneath the skin, I could see them working, the veins and sinews alive with purpose. They were the elegant hands of a woman. They were the busy hands of a mother.
They stirred flour, eggs, milk, a pinch of salt, her famous crepes so good with lemon and sugar; they sponged on foundation, rimmed her eyes with liquid liner, a ritual I knew by heart, having stood watching in the bathroom mirror countless times; they were blessedly cool against a feverish forehead; they were light as a feather dancing across a piano; they pushed a vacuum and scrubbed the shower recess and stacked endless crockery into the dishwasher, folded the clothes of her growing children and when the day was done, I am certain my mother used her hands to pray.
I looked down at my hands recently and noticed they were no longer the hands of a girl. The plumpness of youth had given way to a thinner skin revealing the veins, the sinews working beneath, the nails were poorly cared for but I saw strong, capable hands. One of my mother's jewels now sparkled on my finger – but so much more has passed from her hands to mine.
I don't know when the change occured but these are no longer the hands of a child. Time is stealing the collagen from my skin but I don't care. They are not my mother's hands but they have become the hands of a mother. Small but reliable, they are building a life for my family, one pair of folded socks, one stirred pancake batter at a time.