By Lisa Batten Kunkleman
I wanted the bones on top of my third-grade hands to show through like Miriam’s. She sat next to me in homeroom and I admired her long fingers and thin hands. The bones shown in the top of her hands just below the silver Timex watch on her left wrist and the silver charm bracelet on her right. My hands had dimples instead of knuckles and my charm bracelet didn’t look the least bit dainty on my pudgy wrist.
It took several decades but I got my wish. Now, when I see my hands on the keyboard, sometimes I wonder whose they are. The bony, speckled hands typing away sport my mother’s silver ring, reset with her diamond in the middle and her mother’s two diamonds on either side. More bling than I normally wear, it makes me smile to look at that ring and think of my two favorite women.
Only pudgy if I’ve eaten too much salt, my hands now bear the signs of the dreaded sun damage Mom warned me about. I should have listened to her about so many things but sun damage was a biggie. The crepe-textured, thinning skin with sunspots some people call liver spots says, “I told you so,” even if Mom doesn’t.
My grandmother preached sun protection even more and kept her hands, arms, and face protected, wearing gloves, long sleeves, and a wide-brimmed hat when she was in the sun for long. Vanity or just wisdom kept her skin beautiful for eighty-some years. That and a liberal dose of Vaseline slathered all over her porcelain face at bedtime. She was ahead of her time using natural remedies. Many times I watched her cut a lemon in half and rub it all over the backs of her hands to fade age spots. Then she’d dig her nails into the lemon to bleach the tips white, which is now a popular thing to do.
My fingernails look a little like my dad’s, with vertical age ridges and white tips. He used his nails like a knife to puncture, and then slice through the tough, brown packing tape that sealed huge cardboard boxes of shoes, boots, and purses delivered to his retail store. His nails must have been calcium-rich and strong as, excuse the pun, nails, just like he was, tearing into those cases of merchandise for forty years.
Today, I look at my aging hands and try not to think of thinning skin and age spots, but instead I think of my parents and grandparents and the hard work that went into raising and supporting our family. Age has allowed me the wisdom to know that it was hard work. I take comfort knowing my own hands deserve all the character lines and spots they have today.
I wonder what my childhood friend Miriam’s hands look like now?