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.