As I mark the beginning of my 30th year, I can’t help but feel a sense of insecurity. No, I’m not concerned about the number, but rather, the lack of competence that comes with it. I thought I’d know how to do more by now. Thought I’d feel wise and, well, grown up. But more often than not, I feel like a seventeen-year-old trapped in an ever-widening, ever-gravity pulled body. I feel both old and green, a strange combination, until I force myself to consider all the works these two hands have made. My hands, once delicate extensions of willowy arms, have shown the signs of aging more so than my face, and have a much more interesting story to tell. When I really step back and take an inventory of all they have done, I know that my insecurity is unfounded. Two hands and thirty years. What amazing things they’ve touched and built and broken and mended and soothed.
These hands have scooped down into rich, dark earth to emerge with plump wormy bait, and have learned to sense the tug and tension of a fish on the line. These hands have stolen cold cylinders of generic fruit-flavored pop, in cans of cherry, grape and orange (the best kind there is), from my grandparent’s back porch refrigerator, and have wrapped around my grandmother’s waist when I returned to apologize with a hug. These hands have written and doodled and revealed my deepest secrets and forbidden crushes with glittery gel ink in diaries with tiny locks. These hands have clung tightly to a young cousin’s sweaty palms, as we twirled in hand-me-down dresses. And in time, these happy memories gave way to more somber ones, as these hands caressed and comforted both grandfather and grandmother as they lay on their death bed.
These hands have reached out with trepidation to grasp a boy’s hand for the first time, and never found a perfect fit until they met a certain man’s. These hands have memorized every contour and texture of his body, and call it home. These hands have been gently held as marriage vows were spoken, and gripped in white-knuckle strain as I bore down and gave birth to one daughter, then another. These hands have clung tightly to teeny infant bodies, plump baby bottoms, squirmy toddler hands, and have learned to loosen their grip on a preschooler’s independence. These hands have soothed fevered foreheads, gently combed wild bed head, carefully administered droppers of medication, clipped small fingernails, and fastened countless velcro straps, zippers and buttons. And oh how these hands…have cleaned poop. Off bottoms, off bedspreads, off walls, off floors, off car seats, off clothes, off items I never imagined would know the stench of bowel movement.
These hands have held a diploma, a first paycheck and keys to a new (to me) car. These hands have shaped cowboy hats, cleaned leather boots, shot thousands and thousands of photos, typed for hours at a keyboard, and have even flipped hundreds of hamburgers at a ginormous griddle while being splatted with grease in the college cafeteria kitchen. These hands have packed lunch after lunch, made dinner after dinner, and have learned to maneuver a multi-course meal with ease. These hands prepare healthful nutrient-rich breakfasts, and buttery, bad-for-the-body, good-for-the-soul scratch biscuits. These hands have signed paychecks. These hands have signed mortgages. These hands have given. These hands have received. Hardened by experience, softened by love. Two hands and 30 years.