My Mother’s Hands

By Anya


“It is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us, but we can still love them. We can love completely, without complete understanding.” Rev. Maclean – “River Runs Through It”

One of my earliest memories of my mother was of her hands. My mother had a fair complexion, but her hands were quite tan. She kept her nails clipped short and unpolished. She considered hand lotion an unnecessary luxury and consequently, her hands were somewhat rough. The most prominent feature, however, were the large blue veins that bulged prominently from the tops of her hands. These veins snaked from her wrists to the three middle fingers of each hand. Subsequently, I have learned that some women spend good money to try to rid themselves of these protruding veins, but I did not know this as a child. I thought her hands were beautiful. They were in stark contrast to my own pale, smooth hands. With the advent of adolescence, I began to lose appreciation not only for my mother’s hands, but also for her as a person. I vowed that I would be completely different from her and set about doing everything within my power to achieve this goal. It took her death for me to finally realize that she is indelibly a part of me.

My mother was a loving, if somewhat distant parent. She had a keen mind, but only finished one year of college. She often worked two jobs as I was growing up. What free time she had was spent pursuing left-wing political causes. Abolishing the death penalty. Marching with the farm workers. Championing the Irish hunger strikers. From the time we were in strollers until our pre-teens, my sister and I were brought along to protests and sit-ins. When I got older, I stopped going — how could one look “cool” marching around in a circle, haranguing perfect strangers to not cross a picket line?

I questioned all her choices. Why did she stay in a marriage that had ended long ago? Why did she insist on smoking despite the fact that it killed her father? Just once couldn’t she purchase our clothing from somewhere other than the Purple Heart Thrift Store? We fought well into my early adulthood. I did my best to distance myself from everything she stood for. I voted Republican and made sure she knew it. I forbid her to smoke in my car. As soon as I began earning a paycheck, I applied for a Macy’s credit card (which I quickly maxed out).

After my daughter was born, we reached some form of détente. My mother adored being a grandmother and was ideally suited to it. Her second home became the Emporium baby department. No second hand clothes for her granddaughter. Still our relationship was complicated. As much as I tried to take to heart the words of Rev. Maclean, I found myself more often than not frustrated and worried about my mother. She eluded me and I her. I wanted to fix things that she didn’t want fixed.

In her last years, she became a confirmed homebody and spent her days tending her garden. She planted, weeded and nurtured the soil, with her trusty pack of cigarettes nearby. Her lifelong cigarette habit finally caught up with her and she passed away in 2004. I moved into her home the following year. These days, as I tend her garden, I think of her often. I am now able to acknowledge our many similarities. We both have coarse, wavy, impossible hair. We both have very definite ideas about what constitutes proper subway riding etiquette. I have even come around to her political ideology — with some tweaks. As I mix my hands in the same soil as she did, I look at my hands and see blue veins protruding. I see my mother’s hands. I am my mother’s daughter.

We wish you all a very restful and pleasant Mother’s Day. Please share your thoughts and memories of your mother or grandmother in this thread as well as your plans for this weekend.

Anya has written for Imperfect Women since 2009. She dutifully follows current events and pop culture and loves having a platform to share her imperfect opinions.

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  1. says

    Such a sweet post! My mother has not spoken to in months. So I am unsure if I will see if. I miss my grandmother who passed away many years ago. She was a kind, loving woman. I just hope I can be the mother I want to be for my four children.

  2. says

    I really enjoyed your post. Sweet and heartfelt
    got me reflecting on my similarities with mom and remembering with much love my grandmom.
    happy mother’s day!

  3. says

    This is a very touching post. I lost my own mother several years ago and Mother’s Day has never been the same.

  4. says

    What a lovely post! I hear this all too often between my patients & their families, reflecting on their similarities way later down the road than they would have liked.

  5. says

    What a beautiful post. I think many people can relate as it is hard to keep a strong relationship with a strong willed woman when you have so many similarities. I struggled with my mom for many years. It wasn’t until a few years ago that we began to overcome the strains on our relationship. I’m so grateful we were able to mend fences before it was too late. She now has Alzheimer’s and the mother/women I knew is gone. And it breaks my heart when i see her a shadow of herself. But I’m ever grateful for the good times we were able to build before the disease took her away.

  6. says

    What a beautiful post. I often spend Mother’s Day wishing it would just pass by and be done. I see so many beautiful stories of people who look up to their mothers and how they had great relationships and I did not have that and tend to get a bit down. I hope you have a beautiful Mother’s Day.

  7. Christina Easter says

    This really hit home with me. My grandmother raised me, and I remember her very distinct hands perfectly. As I got older, I pushed back against her very strict and old fashioned beliefs. Now, as an adult, many years after she passed away, I find myself following in so many of her ways (with my own personal tweaks also). My hands are becoming hers too.

  8. says

    When I read your description of your mom’s hand, It was like you were describing my mom’s hand. Fortunately, I have a great relationship with her and I am going to treasure it always.

  9. says

    This is such a sweet post and very timely with Mother’s Day around the corner. I am not as close with my mom as I used to be but I love her and can’t even imagine life without her

  10. ellen beck says

    I loved your post…….. your Mom and mine had many of the same ideologies minus the sit ins and such. Mine was distant but loving in her own way. She never offered advice but was there if my choices were less than stellar. My Mom passed away the day after Mothers Day in the very early morning (or very late night however you see it) I had been to see her, and she rarely said the words “I love you” but before I left she did…. she had had a stroke so it was hard to understand her. I held her hand and told he I loved her too, and that I would be back the next day. Mothers Day reminds me of her and leaves me with the memory of her last words to me.

  11. Sandy Cain says

    Wow. Thankfully, my mom is still with me – but as the years go by, I see more and more of my grandmother in her, especially her hands. My mom and I share none of the same emotional or physical characteristics – I really take after my dad, who is gone – sometimes I see mom looking at me, and I know she is remembering Dad.

  12. Dorothy Boucher says

    OH wow
    I love what you wrote , there are so many things I think about my mom, its hard every year that she is not here to hold hands with, but I know when I look into the mirror I see my mom now.. thank you for sharing your story, loved it and yes I am in tears with you.. God Bless

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