Hands :: A Reflection

Hands are important to those who frequent Altpick. They are an almost indispensible part of creating artwork. We are all familiar with the emotions stimulated by an infant wrapping its fingers around one of ours, of a pat on the back, of a high five and an infinity of other gestures that communicate across distances and touch up close.

I want to relate the single most important hand moments of my family. Then Altpick and I invite you to go to the comments icon and instead of leaving a comment, we would like you to leave a word image of the hands most important to you. It could be one line or a few. Let’s see what variety there is in this. Invite those you know to also come and share with us.

I start with my Dad because it is the earliest imprinted hand event I can remember. My Dad has always been a rather robust man. His hand is correspondingly robust. When I was very small, perhaps three or four, he was showing me the plants in his small salad garden. His large (to me huge) finger delicately brushed crumbs of soil away from the growing root of a radish so I could see how it grew, invisibly, under cover. He recovered it with the same extraordinary gentleness, I would say, tenderness. Those graceful movements, which astonished me at that time, have remained with me. It is a challenge to eat a radish without thinking of him.

My Mother is more difficult. A mother has her hands everywhere, taking care and always doing. On reflection I decided that the most definitive memory of her was an image that comes more from her retirement. She has the time to dedicate daily and I can see her when I visit. She is, as my sister has called her, “a prayer warrior”. Her hands, usually in the lamplight of evening, quietly holding and moving her rosary, are an image of her caring for all. Her soul is in them then.

My brother. He was eighteen months younger than me and our first passes as children were made together. Together we built with blocks, we wrestled and ran and played. He ferociously was my equal in all despite my being older. When I was about six, we found a pile of bricks out back and decided to build a wall. We faced each other and built it between us. At one point there was a place we both wanted our bricks to go. We slammed into that space as fast and hard as we could, each trying to get there first. It was a tie. I lost a nail (pride in that) from a very black and blue finger caught in the crash. I can still see his small hand on that brick zooming towards the space I wanted for mine.

My sisters’ hands come together as a package. The memory is from a little over two years ago. It was at a funeral Mass for my brother’s ashes. We went up to the altar podium. Each of us, in turn, stepped forward and addressed those gathered. I was last. I was reading a memorial written by his best friend, who couldn’t be there. Even though I had reviewed it all, at length earlier, my voice started to crack on the first sentence. From behind me, immediately and without pause, I felt my sisters as one, take half a step closer and each placed a hand, just perched it, on the back of a shoulder. I have no real visual. It is a visceral memory. They made a circuit with me and I read that entire letter with strength and grace because of their hands touching me.

My Husband’s hands are very large. He is a big man. During a visit, while we were dating, I was seated at the table in his country kitchen and he was massaging my shoulders. A wasp flew in and started walking around the rim of the lampshade hung over that table. One hand never left my shoulder. The other hand reached up and one huge finger delicately stroked the back of the wasp. He was petting it! He was so gentle it let him do this. He continued to stroke it several times and then, when he stopped the wasp continued its circuit of the lamp.

In some way this is where it all started, with the tenderness hidden in huge, rough, manly hands. But it truly expands outwards to all. Please share your ‘hands story’. Click comments, below, and write, for all of us to share.

Written by our Italy Correspondent and Artist Carol Schultheiss in Cavallini.

Photo by Maria Ragusa-Burfield.

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8 Responses to Hands :: A Reflection

  1. Valerie Kuramoto says:

    Okay, so I have tears in my eyes now, thanks to my sister Carol. I have many images of hands too, especially those of my husband, Steve (a gymnastics coach who has very sure hands) and m children–whose hands I’ve gotten to watch grown (far too quickly, I’ll add). But I’ll focus on Carol for this comment. Carol has but one hand, yet she always managed to take me to the City and hold my hand while we walked around midtown Manhattan (she was 16, I was 6)–I never noticed it missing. And she also provided one of the best laughs I’ve ever had. Some may be offended by this, but within a family, there are definitely fewer limits on how one can make a joke. It was Christmas. Carol and Mom had been at a flea market recently, and Carol happened upon a very realistic “hand.” She and Mom thought it would “be a rip” to buy it for her. There we were opening Christmas presents, and Carol kept persisting on showing me her gifts, displayed in her hands. It took awhile for me to realize, and then I said “where did you get that?” She and Mom were roaring, but no one else had gotten the joke yet (must have been too early–most of us are night owls). I thought Mom was going to fall off of the couch, she was laughing so hard. Bob, who was near us, finally caught on and the joke was out of the bag. She single-handedly got us (yes, pun intended–everyone can groan now).

    • The very best memories are family memories. A hands down win goes to Carol’s sister, Valerie [and we hear a groan].

    • B.Bowen says:

      I absolutely loved this piece about hands. The author did a beautiful job of allowing us to feel the strength of the loving, supportive and nurturing hands in her life. The story of the sisters offered a particularly poignant image of the power of touch.
      Also, I was struck by the photo that introduces the essay. All around wonderful!

    • leciawood says:

      What a beautiful post! I loved my gran’s hands when I was small, and even when I was larger 🙂 Her skin was so soft! She’d brush her fingertips along my back and neck at bedtime. I never wanted her to stop. But my favorite part was to run my own fingers across the backs of her hands and feel the raised veins make room for me. I never could understand why the liver spots felt no different than the rest of her skin. Her knuckles were and large and her wedding ring would spin and float on the long skinnier part of her ring finger. Now, my mom’s hands have become my daughter’s Grammie’s hands, and I see the pale lines of blue rising closer to the surface of my own skin. Thanks for bringing such special moments to mind.

  2. BGS says:

    Excellent piece, Aunt Carol! I particularly enjoy and appreciate the insight into the younger versions of the family I know. Also, it gives your (our) hand art from several years ago a new significance. Thank you for sharing!

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