Mothers Hands

( – promoted by undercovercalico)

My mom’s been gone for nine years now and I can hardly remember her face. When I think of my mother I see her hands. I don’t think this is only due to the fact that her hand is in nearly every picture I have of myself or my sibs from years ago, as much as she was always doing something with her hands. And I don’t think its due to the jangling bracelet she habitually wore with its coins from Arabia, India, Africa & other foreign countries.

She was one of a dying breed, as npk mentions. (and btw~thank you for the inspiration npk!) She was a homemaker, always doing something with her hands.  

One of my earliest memories is her hands brushing my hair. She left my hair long (as did I, later) and some days my hair was quite a mess!  She’d hold a hank of hair in one hand &, starting at the bottom, brush out the tangles & brambles with the other. Her hands were the only ones that trimmed my hair until she said she was too unsteady to do it any longer.

A very early memory is her hand holding tweezers, picking gravel out of my knees after I fell trying to roller skate down a hill.

Her hand smoothed back my hair over & over, my head in her lap watching the red lights go by overhead as Daddy rushed me to the hospital. Or bringing me softboiled eggs & buttered bread or chicken soup on a tray for weeks after that.

But mostly I remember her hands with cloth or pins as she was constantly sewing. She made  dresses, skirts blouses & shorts for my sister & I; she made my brothers shirts & suits; she made bedskirts and curtains, birdcage covers, chair cushions, costumes…damn near anything you could imagine. She taught me to sew when I was in second grade.

If she wasn’t sewing a ‘project’ in the evenings her hands would be busy as she’d knit or crochet.  One of the last things she crocheted was a long cape type thing for our girl. On a whim I entered it in the county fair that year. She won the blue ribbon!

Her hands made dinner ‘from scratch’ nearly every day.(she thought Kraft macaroni&cheese was cheating) Those hands baked pies & cakes, cookies & bread every week and all of it was delicious. Once she tricked my brother who was becoming greedy about ‘his’ blueberry pie. When my brother got home he saw his best friend sitting at table with a large piece of pie half eaten & just a sliver in the pie plate. Boy was he pissed!  His friend Dave had come over early & mom had given him a piece of pie & glass of milk. Then she put a tiny sliver of pie in an empty pie plate and smeared a bit of blueberry around, crumbled some crust bits. After my brother finally said he didn’t really mind Dave having pie (because Dave didn’t always get to have great pie!) Mom brought the rest of the pie out.

Her hands did a bit more than traditional women’s work though. My dad was in the military so we moved a Lot. It was moms hands that organized & packed up the house. And unpacked & hung curtains & rods; hung pictures; put furniture back together. She bought some unfinished bookcases & antiqued them herself (an oddity at the time…all the neighborhood women came to see)

Those hands did gardening. Not with gloves like most other moms, she said she liked to feel the dirt. She planted snapdragons every Spring (Gramma showed me how to make them ‘roar’)  and chrysanthemums in the Fall. She trimmed the bushes around the house and cut the grass.

Those hands were so confident, competent as they showed me how to fold diapers, how to test a bottle, how to hold a squirming baby in a bath. And she told me of the first time she held me as Daddy drove home from the orphanage in Germany.

Lookin at some recent photos, I noticed my hand in several. Tweaking a shirt hem or strand of hair, pushing a branch into alignment, not quite getting out of the picture before it snapped. My hands are starting to look like hers.

some Beautiful Words that made me realize, when I think of my mom I see her hands

Ten Views of a Hand

by Cronesense

A baby’s delicate fingers

A child’s deep-dimpled knuckles

A young girl’s first dime-store ring

A teenager’s fascination with nail polish

A maiden’s ring-finger encircled in gold

A young mother’s short, efficient nails

A busy mother’s neglected cuticles

A matron’s age spots

An old women’s swollen joints

A dying woman’s soft, warm palm


Skip to comment form

    • RiaD on May 11, 2008 at 6:30 pm


  1. i can’t go to sleep until you kiss me goodnight…

    don’t forget to make room for me on your lap, mom

    i need to crawl into the outside of your womb

    my peaceful place.

    don’t go, mom

    so many things i need to tell you

    don’t forget me.

    don’t let me go.

    don’t stop loving me, mom……………………….

    • RiaD on May 11, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    • Alma on May 11, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Its funny the things we remember.

    I’m crying for all the people that have lost their Mother, and treasuring mine with every cell of my being.

    • kj on May 11, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    in Kitty’s essay.  Sometimes it’s all I know what to say.

    For anyone who’s lost their mother, I recommend reading “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman. This book was what finally allowed my sisters and me the opportunity to look at our grief and start the process of healing. We’d spent the previous 20+ years stumbling around, not talking, before this book came out and one of my sisters called us up and forced us, as in “Go out right now and buy this book and then call me in an hour!” and gave us permission to open up and talk.  It is one of the very few books I own in hardback.  I’ve only read it once.

    • kj on May 11, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    was a real ditz.  bright, but bit loony.  she routinely forget to take off her sunglasses in the house, and then would run around, turning on lights, complaining about how dark it was, until one of us looked up from whatever we were doing and said, “Moooom, you’ve got your sunglasses on!”

    She’d loose the coffee pot, only to find it in the fridge.  She wore out the brakes on the car every other six months or so, because braking for anything was a foreign concept to her.

    She had one of those laughs you could hear for miles and it embarrassed me to no end as a kid.  “Oh, there goes Mom again!”

    She used to say, “Let’s blow this pop stand!” just to hear us laugh.  

    • RiaD on May 11, 2008 at 9:10 pm


  2. Thank you for this.

    Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there.

  3. Now why did’ya go and make me cry???

    • geomoo on May 11, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Beautifully simple–reading everything through the hands.  It’s amazing to realize that we can trace the movement of our culture by looking at the changing role of mothers.  When you mentioned meals, I thought how much we’ve lost by not nourishing our bodies with real food and not nourishing our spirits through eating as a family.

  4. could also make just about anything and owned several sewing machines during her tenure.  She could bake a theme based birthday cake and make the backyard bloom with colorful flowers.  Dad being busy it was Mom who took us on vacations to the same beach I share with my grandson now.  When I grew older she then went back to school and completed her four year college degree only to secure a job in the dying electronics industry.

    Moms are indeed extraordinary.  Moms hold the family together and without that none of us would be here.  

Comments have been disabled.