A Mother’s Hands

154I didn’t know what to expect as I entered the hospital room where my mother’s body lay.  She appeared peaceful, as if she was sleeping.  I sat next to her bed and took her hand in mine.  It was eerily cold, a cold I was not prepared for, and the reality of her death began to sink in.  I kept her hand in mine and found comfort in the lingering scent of her hand lotion.  It was the scent I most associated with my childhood.  There was rarely a time her hands did not smell of it. I sat for several minutes, holding her hand, not ready to let go.

The scent of her hands lingered on my own when I went to bed that night. I intentionally did not wash them.  I kept my hands close to my face as I fell asleep that night, breathing in the scent, trying to hold onto her.

In the morning, I carefully turned on the shower, making sure my hands did not get wet.  I knew I would never see her again, hear her again or touch her again.  The only tangible sense I had left of her was the scent of her hands on mine. I stood naked outside the shower cupping my hands over my face like an oxygen mask. I breathed in deeply, wanting every cell in my body to absorb her. I reluctantly stepped into the shower.  As the water washed over me, my emotions did the same, and I began to cry.

I find myself thinking about her hands often.  Not only the scent, but how comforting it felt when she gently yet firmly pressed her hand against my forehead to check my temperature when I was sick. I remember her hands folded in prayer or working their way around her rosary beads. I think about the time she spent making clothes and hand embroidery.  I wonder how many hours her hands were tucked away inside her yellow rubber gloves while she cleaned or did dishes.  I see her hands turning countless book pages. I feel her holding my hand as she walked me to school each morning when I was little. I recall her hands pulling weeds, baking cookies, wrapping gifts and doing the endless number of tasks a mother does.

Our hands tell the story of who we are to those who are willing to take the time to listen.  They are an extension of our thoughts and emotions. We can so easily express ourselves with an angry point of the finger, a loving stroke on the back or a playful tickle. They can represent protection or fear, tenderness or harshness, productivity or idleness.  Our hands can express who we are by what we create with them and they allow us to share ourselves with others.  Some hands speak unassumingly and unknowingly, while others speak loudly and purposefully.

I look at my own hands, watching the skin get thinner, the wrinkles get deeper and the dark spots get larger and darker.  I contemplate the story they are telling, who is listening and how it will be remembered.


Christmas Card Photo Day

IMG_0274Since my web site is called Memoirs of a Middle Aged Mom, I suppose it is appropriate for my first post to be about my kids.  This picture and the header photo are my 6 darling, perfect little angels *cough, cough*.  I love these pictures for a couple of reasons.  1.  They are simply, really cute pictures.  And 2. These pictures were their idea.

Now, like most mothers, I have been documenting each Christmas with  a Christmas photo of the kids. Over the years  I have gone  to great lengths to have a cute and creative photo of my kids to put into Christmas cards every year. Adorable pictures of them with reindeer antlers and noses, in the bathtub with Santa hats and bubble beards or simple pictures of them in front of the fireplace wearing matching flannel shirts.  As most mothers know, it is often a difficult task to get one child to cooperate for a photo, let alone 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.  As the kids grew older, they became less cooperative on Christmas card picture day, and not because they hadn’t had their nap or because they were simply grumpy toddlers.  No, they became resistant because admittedly, it just wasn’t that fun.  It was often difficult for me to remain patient and cheery while trying to get them all dressed, smiling and looking picture perfect.  Let’s face it,  by the time it was over, we were all exhausted and frustrated.

A few years ago, the complaining and resistance were at an all time high.  My feelings were hurt that taking a simple family photo seemed too big  a burden to them.  I was hurt that they didn’t care or understand how important these pictures were to me.  After 20 some years of family Christmas photos, I gave in.  I gave up.  For the next few years, there was no Christmas card photo *gasp*.

Until this year, when they were all home at Thanksgiving.  I had regained my conviction for the family photo, took charge and told them that there WOULD be a group picture this year.  They groaned a little for old time sake as I told them to stand in front of the fireplace.  I just wanted to keep it simple as to avoid as much resistance as possible.  And then it happened.  A Christmas miracle.  “That’s too boring.  Let’s do something fun like get in the bathtub (dressed, of course) or all of us in your bed.”  What?  Was I hearing this correctly?  I didn’t care.  Without hesitation I enthusiastically agreed before they could change their minds.  They all hopped in my bed and I took as many pictures as I could  in about 5 minutes,  and called it done. No color coordination, no matching clothes, no coiffed hair or fun props. Just them, as they are, on any regular day.

I know it will be several years before they really understand how special and meaningful these pictures are.  But I bet, one day, they will wonder about the missing years and most likely blame me for the absence of them.  But that’s okay.  They will be happy that we all went though the trouble to document the growth of our family as well as their individual physical growth.  They will laugh about the torment and stories behind each photo and they will be grateful that their mom was such a pain in the ass every year on Christmas card photo day.


Just for fun, here are a couple pictures that demonstrate why my kids hate photo day 🙂