These Old Hands


When I attended design school in the 1970s, my schedule allowed only an hour for lunch. Veronica and I shared classes, and one day after I first met her, we ran down the street to a crowded student-filled cafe.

While sitting across from Veronica, I observed her. Raven hair curled down to touch her shoulders. Perfectly fitting designer clothes hugged her slim body which was also perfect. Her manicured hands were gracefully gesturing and her posture, of course, was impeccable. If anyone looked the part of an “Interior Designer,” it was Veronica. She was beautiful.

As I was studying her, she looked at my hands. “You are an old soul,” she exclaimed.

“Why do you say that?” I looked puzzled.

“Your hands look like an old woman owns them,” she stated with certainty as she casually took a bite of her lunch. I quickly put my old hands under the table to hide them from view.

“No, no, don’t hide them; I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings! I was trying to express that your hands show you are an old soul who possesses innate wisdom and knowledge. You should be proud of your hands!” She explained, still with a twinkle in her perfect eyes.

I was an insecure twenty-one-year-old with wispy blond hair pulled into pigtails. My Tennessee accent, homemade clothes, and dishwater worn hands covered in freckles and vein tracks didn’t help my self-esteem. I was the opposite of all that she was and the last person you would expect to be in a design school filled with upscale, polished-perfect folks.

Yes, confidence wasn’t my strong suit. I never thought of my self as attractive or elegant, and now I had old hands! Who cares if you have wisdom or knowledge when your hands are all anyone is going to see!

TWENTY YEARS LATER

The years passed and one evening in my late forties, I was on my first date with a very refined man whom I admired. My hair was no longer in pigtails, my jeans came from a department store, and I was in the middle of a career in design.

During our dinner, I noticed my date staring at my hands. My first thought, “Why didn’t I wear Mother’s old white gloves!”

A smile flashed across his face. “I love your hands!” he exclaimed.

Once again, they immediately went into my lap as I surprisingly replied, “Why?”

“I see character, hard work, and history in those tiny hands,” he softly said as he reached out to take one of my hands into his.

I didn’t date him long, but I will never forget that moment because I never hid my hands again.

THE ROOTS OF MY OLD HANDS

I inherited these old hands from an exceptional group of folks who possessed the same little tiny, freckled friends I have.

My Uncle Paul and I used to laugh that ours were so similar. He was a skilled surgeon whose small hands enabled him to perform intricate surgery long before the development of lasers and robotic instruments.

Uncle Paul, Dad, and I inherited these hands from my Granny Rose and R. E. Walker. As a child, I recall hoping my hands would not look like my Granny’s, but they do.

Rose raised her four children with those hands of hers by herself. Her husband, R. E., died before the smallest child turned five. And, she was the only one of the bunch who could play the piano and organ efficiently which, in itself, was an anomaly.

Nowadays, my hands match my age. They are even more worn, more freckled, and sometimes I still want to find Mother’s white gloves.

THE EPIPHANY

While I was holding my baby granddaughter the other day, I thought about how many babies these hands have held. How many times have I used my hands to wash a bottom or a dish or wave good-bye? How many faces have I touched with love and adoration? I cannot count the times I have clasped these old hands together in prayer.

My hands have cooked thousands of meals and hammered thousands of nails. These hands cradled my mom the day she died and cradled my children the first day they started to live.

Even though models grace the covers of magazines as an example of beauty, I believe we find real beauty in all people in many ways. Maybe beauty is in these old hands not for what they look like but for what they have done for this old soul. Perhaps it is time to give Mother’s old white gloves away.

The Evil Lurking in the Grass

The year was 1961, and my parents were building their dream home in Tennessee. Mother and I had driven to the new house to meet a contractor on an unusually warm August Saturday morning. I would have preferred to stay home but decided at the last minute to tag along.

Upon arrival, saws were buzzing, and hammers were pounding nails into rafters as Mom, and the contractor tried to converse over the racket. I began to stroll to the vacant lot next to ours where a large oak tree on the far side beckoned me to come join her shade and quiet.

“Where are you going?” The voice startling me to quickly turn around, exhibiting a bit of fear.

“I’m sorry,” the voice continued, “I didn’t mean to make you jump!”

I met the gaze of a young man about my age just as the sun caught the sprinkling of gold dust in his dark hazel eyes. His eyelashes curled up to his eyebrows, and his perfect teeth gleamed as he flashed a broad smile. He was stunning.

After introductions, we ran and played in the vacant lot until we tired and sat under the branches of the oak tree to talk. Henry was thirteen, and the son of the nice gentleman Mom was still meeting with.

After a while, we began to head back to the partially built house. Henry was a few steps behind me when he yelled, “Don’t move, Lynn!” I stopped dead still as he cautioned me to walk around the large coiled snake lying peacefully in the tall grass in front of me. Henry was able to calm me and keep my normal hysteria at bay over such creepy creatures.

SAYING GOODBYE

When we reached my mother, I told her about the snake, introduced her to my new friend, and the three of us walked toward the car.

We waved goodbye, and as we did, tears welled in my eyes because I instinctively knew I would never see Henry again.

“Why are you upset?” Mama asked.

Once I explained the reason, she understood and said, “It is sad, but you are right, you probably will not see your new friend again.”

Mother was right, I indeed, never did. Sixty years have passed and, yet, I still recall the beautiful boy who saved me from the snake and talked with me under the oak tree.

I was born and bred in the segregated South, yet, I never understood any form of racism. As a child, I remember wondering why folks judged people by the way they looked, the way they talked, or the color of their skin. I felt it was anti-God to do so and still do today.

Mama must have thought the same because I never heard her say a disparaging word about anyone. Usually, she was a woman of few words, but I recall her declaring, “What’s race got to do with anything? Whether a person is bad or good doesn’t have a thing to do with the color of their skin!”

Because this fine woman was my mother, she did not teach hate or bias with words or actions. How grateful I am for her intelligence.

IS GOD TESTING US?

Do we really believe God judges us by the way we look? Doesn’t He, instead, judge us by the actions of our souls? What if God created humans of different ethnicities, cultures, and colors to see if we could see with our hearts instead of our eyes? What if He is giving us a big ole’ test?

I know a lot of people who will likely need to go to summer school or face expulsion if that is the case. And, I don’t mean just some white folks. There are people of all ethnicities who pass blame, resentment, and meanness on down the line to the next generation.

Do they not understand they are hurting themselves, our county, and God?

We ponder why there is so much hatred, anti-everything in America today. White Supremacist groups, terrorist groups, anti-Semitic groups, anti-Hispanic groups, anti-Caucasian groups are swelling. Organizations where violence accompanies them wherever they roam, and hatred blossoms.

Americans have come along way for equality since 1961, but there are still snakes lurking in the grass waiting to cause harm. They are ready to upend strides forward, and ready to strike at common sense and decency.

To save us from their evil, many the beauty in ALL people sound the warning.

THE HEALING POWER OF A HOMEMADE PIE

Comic strips often entertain us with not only a funny moment but occasionally the cartoonist will introduce a bit of insight within their colorful panels. Such was the case when Jan Eliot provided such wisdom in her comic strip called, “Stone Soup.”

One of the characters is Alix, a nine-year-old precocious girl who is sitting at the kitchen table watching her Grandmother rolling the dough for a homemade pie.

Alix asks, “Gramma, why do you like to make pies so much?”

Her Gramma explains that when she was a young mother, they did not have much money, but she and her husband had an orchard abundant with pears, apples, and peaches. So, when they could afford only rice and beans for dinner, what lifted the spirits of her family, was a delicious homemade pie for dessert.

After hearing her Gramma’s explanation, Alix replies, “In other words… before Prozac, there was pie.”

Gramma ends the story with this statement, “That’s what’s wrong with everyone! Not enough pie!!”

Growing up, I recall my Grandmother making pies to deliver to folks who were physically ailing or mentally going through a difficult time. She regularly baked my brother his favorite chocolate pie and would always make a blackberry cobbler for my mother when the berries were in season. I don’t think I ever visited her when she didn’t bake a pie out of love or compassion for someone.

I remember one summer day, my grandmother’s friend, Mrs. Harris, was ill. First thing on a Saturday morning, we visited Mrs. Harris bearing an apple pie full of concern and affection. Before we left, Mrs. Harris was giggling with her friend before hugging me goodbye.

The tradition of pie giving was passed down from those ancestors who resided in the Southern hills to hearts who needed a pie’s restorative power. Aunts, mothers. grandmothers, a few uncles, and even some grandpas inherited the gift of producing a mouthful of joy. My Granddaddy couldn’t make a pie, but he sure could mend a mortal soul with his homemade peanut brittle.

My mom could roll out the best pie crust on the planet. Plus, she had the artistic talent to create the perfect lattice top over her delicious fruit pies. She would serve them warm with a dollop of ice cream. Mom could dry tears and melt hearts with her delicious creations. I once dubbed her the “Queen of Pies,” and to this day, I believe she undoubtedly was.

Friends and family frequently question me, “Lynn, why do you insist on baking homemade desserts? You can go to Publix and get a great pie or cake and not have to go through the trouble!”

My answer is the same, “It’s not the same!”

Generosity, compassion, and joy are only found in the work you go through to create them. Not everyone knows how to bake a pie, but they sure know how to gather flowers, write a sweet note, or hold a hand. When we use extra energy to lift another’s spirit, whether it is through baking a pie or going for a visit, we deliver healing. When we go to the trouble to love, we give hate trouble.

Our world is a busy place where texting emoji hearts, sad or smiling faces, makes it simple to share our emotions. We are “convenient” happy. Whatever makes our lives easier is becoming the norm. However, our days will become more comfortable only when our society becomes a less hateful place.

A peaceful world can exist only through loving each other enough to create a pie made of sincere compassion, prayer, and understanding. Comforting another is not about easy, it is about sacrifice and empathy. There is no emoji in the technological world that shows the recipe for genuine kindness.

“Before Prozac, there was pie,” Alix declared. I suffer from clinical depression, and I understand needing medications for this illness. However, if my family and friends had been too busy to hug me, pray with me, or cook my kids’ dinner through some of those wicked dark hours, would I have made it? When those compassionate souls took the time to physically aid me, they helped me see a sunny day was on the horizon.

“That’s what’s wrong with everyone! Not enough pie!” Gramma happily tells her grandchildren as she holds her beautiful baked pie above her head. What if we brought a homemade pie of kindness to the table of hate and calmed anger with a dose of warmed goodness?

Then our Grandchildren would learn just like I did from my Grandmother; when we take the time to create love, we might just witness healing our hurts one pie at a time.