I Have My Mother’s Hands

My mom is the babe with the dark hair. I’m the kid on the left.

I have my mother’s hands.   That’s not something I’ve ever taken as a compliment – no offense, Mom.

Our hands are broad and short-fingered.   A network of lines criss-crosses both palm and back.  The adjectives “sturdy” and “capable” come to mind when you see them.  They’re milkmaid hands in search of a cow.

When I was a kid, my mother’s hands were rarely still.  I remember them…

wrist-deep in noxious substancesAs the mother of 9 children she handled more than her fair share of disgusting stuff.   Fully 4 little bottoms might be diaper-clad at any one time.  Dad helped, but as a stay-at-home mom, the lion’s share of the doody duty fell to her. Mom was a one-woman bomb squad, at least until us “big girls” were old enough to be sent to work in the doo-doo mines.

defrosting broccoli.  It’s not that Mom was a bad cook; it’s just that the unrelenting drudgery of putting breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table for that many people sucked most of the joyful creativity out of the process.  Her go-to menu consisted of hot dogs, frozen broccoli and baked potatoes.  In the summer she switched to my Dad’s favorite: corn-on-the-cob and BLTs for almost every meal.

up to her elbows in a laundry tub.  With 11 people in the house, the mountain of dirty clothes never really wore down.  All she could do was take a little off the peak when it threatened to hit the ceiling.  Mom spent so much time in our dank basement she should have been a troll.  She never complained about it because it was the only place she could go to get away from us.  We kids never went down there for fear of being pressed into service carting baskets of clean clothes up two flights of stairs.

ink-stained, clutching the edges of a newspaper. My mother is a voracious reader.  The Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the local paper, the Wall Street Journal – she’s read them all for years.  Back in the day, sticky little hands would rip down the newspaper barricade she tried to hide behind before she ever finished an article.  Her passions have always been politics, biographies and history.  She has been a proud member of the AAUW and their book club for almost 60 years.   She is still one of the most widely read people I know.

slapping at my Dad’s hand as he absent-mindedly raised it to his mouth to chew on a nail.  Mom is the eternal optimist.  She remains confident she can break him of this detested habit, even though she’s had no luck in 57 years.

wielding scissors.  Her passion for current events and politics leads to a need to share.  Rarely do more than a few weeks go by without a familiar manila envelope showing up in our mailboxes, chock full of articles.  The salient parts are underlined and extra commentary written in the margin.   Hers is the voice of our civic consciences, exhorting us to stay informed, to write our congressmen, to DO something to right perceived wrongs in the system.  Mom is Jiminy Cricket to all of her little Pinocchios.

writing notes.  My mother rarely forgets a birthday, a holiday, or a special occasion.  She takes the time to pick out just the right card (usually mushy), and then underlines the sentiments that really speak to her.   She casts her net wide to keep the far-flung edges of our extended family together.  No matter the card, no matter the occasion, the message she is sending is clear: you are special to me.

bandaging boo-boos.  Over the years Mom has handled more injuries than the local emergency room, not all of them physical.  I remember being home from college one weekend when my little sister Judy interrupted us while we were making up a bed.  Struggling to navigate the shark-infested waters of junior high school, Judy dissolved into tears at the betrayal of a “friend”.  I slipped quietly out of the room, but the image of the two of them seated on the half-made bed remains with me to this day.  Judy sobbed on her shoulder while Mom cradled her awkward, adolescent baby in her arms.  Her capable hand gently smoothed her daughter’s hair, over and over again.

There, there.  Mommy’s here.

Mom doesn’t wear nail polish.  Her hands’ only adornments are her engagement and wedding rings.  These are sparkling testaments to her good taste in both diamonds and men.  She and my father will celebrate 57 years of marriage this summer.

A stroke a few years back has slowed her down a bit, but at 82 she’s still a force to be reckoned with.   She worries that her handwriting is illegible since the stroke, but we all  reassure her: “No, your handwriting was always horrible, Mom.”  Dad attached a bicycle horn to her walker and she gives it a brisk squeeze if she needs to clear dawdlers out of her path at Big Boy.   Going out to breakfast is her favorite sport, which is another feature I inherited.

When I look back on life with my Mom I realize I will be lucky if my hands accomplish ¼th of what hers have done.  If mine can hold even a fraction of the love that her hands have held, I know I will have been blessed beyond measure to have my mother’s hands.

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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89 Responses to I Have My Mother’s Hands

  1. A beautiful homage to your mother , thank you, I so enjoyed reading it.

    Like

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    57 years of marriage–Wow! Your mother sounds like a wonderful and strong woman. If I ever hear a bike horn go off at Big Boy, I’ll know who to look for. 😉

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  3. mo says:

    Loved this.
    mo

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  4. I have nothing cute, intelligent or witty to say – only that I love LOVE this post and you made me cry. ;P

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  5. I have my mother’s hands, too. And they aren’t pretty. Our fingernails are always cracked, the cuticles are always peeling. We don’t wear polish. Ever. She doesn’t even wear her wedding ring. Sometimes my mother threw up her hands, not knowing what else to do. I have done that, too. But lots of times {when I didn’t give her much credit at all } she was there guiding me with an invisible hand. She still is. I think I just wrote my Mother’s Day post.

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  6. This is beautiful. Well written, funny — I like the part about how she spent so much time in the basement she should have been a troll — loving, and honoring.

    Someone said the other day, “Isn’t it horrible how, the older we get, the more we resemble our mothers?” No, not really. They invest so much of their being into us, it would be odd if we didn’t resemble them in some fashion, and, as they hope, the good parts.

    Yes, you have your mother’s hands, blended with yours, one generation transitioning into another, each adding their own measure of blessing and joy to what came before.

    Happy Mother’s Day.

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    • pegoleg says:

      “each adding their own measure of blessing and joy to what came before.” what a lovely thought! Thanks for the kind words, and Happy Mother’s Day to you.

      Like

  7. mistyslaws says:

    A beautiful and wonderful tribute to your own mom and moms everywhere. Loved this.

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  8. Tar-Buns says:

    I love this post, Pegolicousness. Hate the picture, of me! But, love the sentiment and heartfelt love of our Mom. She’s the best.
    Looking forward to seeing you this weekend at the wedding!
    Smooches,
    Your ever-lovin’ sister!

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  9. Margie says:

    Your mom sounds wonderful – how fortunate you and your siblings are to not only have all these wonderful memories, but be able to share them with a mom who is still there to receive your tributes!

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  10. How fortunate you are to have your mom. Wonderful tribute. I hope she reads your blog before or after the Detroit Free Press, WSJ…or perhaps the Miami Herald or Orlando Sentinel? She has to be proud of her daughter’s way with words. Good job, mama.

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  11. Elyse says:

    Can those capable hands please pass a hanky?

    Beautiful, Peg, from first word to last.

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  12. Pleun says:

    Your mom sounds like an interesting woman. And you are right about the busyness of their hands, my mom is the same, although doing different things 😉 Enjoy mother’s day!

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  13. Susan in TX says:

    Lovely tribute. Thanks for sharing that.

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  14. Beautiful piece! What an amazing woman. We are often in awe of our mothers and can’t imagine doing the things they did. 🙂

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  15. I know this is about her hands . . . and yours. . . but I can’t help but notice her lovely, contented face and how happy you all look. That picture says it all. . . even if it is missing the BLT.

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  16. Paula J says:

    Having a great mom like yours is such a blessing. I had a great one, too.

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  17. Great hands, great post.

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  18. momshieb says:

    Just read this to my 83 year old Mom, who says that your Mom is lucky to have you (which I took as a hint…..!) Well done, even if you did make me look bad!

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  19. Daile says:

    This should be Freshly Pegged! Or Pressed! Sounds like mama Peg was pretty amazing

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  20. So sweet. I always wished I could grow my fingernails like my mom’s. it’s not quite as lofty of a goal, but hey, it’s a start. Loved it.

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  21. Great honor to your mother!

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  22. mimijk says:

    My hunch is that this going to be one of those posts/articles that your mom cuts out to share with others. Wonderful and loving tribute to a very special mom

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  23. bigsheepcommunications says:

    Aw, your mushy side is showing 😀

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  24. Eve Lee says:

    awww this is lovely
    sure your mother will be happy to learn of this
    yes, mothers do try to keep the home safe and they do a great job…
    big ups to all mothers around the world!

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  25. That was a wonderful post! I lifetime seen through a pair of hands. Very touching (unintentional pun!).

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  26. Janu says:

    Just beautiful! What a nice Mother’s Day tribute. Happy Mother’s Day to you!

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  27. Al says:

    Just further proof that man is not the stronger sex, not by a long shot. Sweet post and congrats to them from me on such a lasting relationship!

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  28. Pure love and sweetness from start to finish. Congrats to your parents on 57 years together!

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    • pegoleg says:

      Thanks so much, Miss Darlypants. Your sweet, touching post had the tears welling up big time. The love you have for your husband and kids just shines through your writing.

      Like

  29. Awwww…. Love this!

    Broccoli and baked potatoes are my favorite sides. I’ll come eat with your mom any time!

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  30. Your mom and I would probably get along famously. I love to go out to breakfast also! We can go to the Waffle House. 🙂 May I say that she was quite a looker in that photo.

    A terrific Mother’s Day tribute, Peg.

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  31. Go Jules Go says:

    This is one of my favorites, Peggles 🙂

    HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

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  32. Wonderful tribute! My mom was a bad cook and had short stubby hands (which she hated as a violinist. No matter, those hands still made music.)
    Give mom a hug! And happy Mother’s Day!

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  33. Love this post and photo, love that your mum embraced her hands while so many of today are trying eradicate all signs of life /experience with paraffin treatments and nail varnish,
    Keep posting

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    • pegoleg says:

      She never bothered with that stuff, and neither have I. Although I wouldn’t mind if my life experiences would be a little less generous with the wrinkles.

      Like

  34. Coming East says:

    OMG, this was terrific, Peg! I love how you used her hands to build a picture of her beautiful life and all the love she’s given out over the years. Wonderful! I hope you show her this!

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  35. I have always been fascinated with photos of hands and believed they can tell the true story of person. You have painted a beautiful portrait of your Mother through her hands. It must be an amazing feeling when you can hold her hand in yours. Thanks for sharing her with us.

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  36. I believe I am envious of your hands. This was a lovely and loving portrait of your mother, thank you so much for sharing it. I do hope you show it to your mother.

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  37. miznattie says:

    A lovely mother’s day gift to your mom. So often that level of appreciation is overlooked until it’s too late to share. I hope she reads this and laughs as heartily as I did. Oh, and congrats on surviving the doo-doo mines!!

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  38. Hands say a lot about a person and your post about your mother’s hands said so much about both her and your relationship. Quite poignant.

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  39. Angie Z. says:

    I remember bonding about the fact that our moms both sent us clipped out newspaper articles. What a special mom.

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    • pegoleg says:

      That’s right, Angie. Did your mom send an article about the importance of sending extravagant Mother’s Day cards? Or did you already know that?

      Like

  40. The Old Lady says:

    I can’t help buy envy you, I wanted to be that mom and I tried really hard, two agreed and have stayed close, the other two have little to do with me – I wanted that with my mom but I think she always just hated being a mom. You are very blessed!!!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Oh, I’m sorry to hear that not all your mother/child relationships have been good ones. I realize that I AM blessed. I guess all you can do is enjoy the relationships you do have with your kids.

      Like

  41. (Believe it or not) I read this post on Monday… I intended to think on it / come back much earlier to comment, but I’ve still ‘got nothing’ eloquent enough…
    this is so nicely done I can’t seem to think of anything that ‘fits’…
    it’s wonderful, Peg…

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  42. Mary K. says:

    Made me cry-loved it. Dead on!MKC

    Like

  43. pattisj says:

    What a lovely post, Peg.

    Like

  44. What a lovely way to look at it 🙂 my mother and I also share our sturdy workers hands. I will read this to her tomorrow.

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