I had thought, I had hoped, that one day I would hold a tiny new thing closely in my arms
and quietly sing in reverence the stories passed down, "Who's that writin'? John the Revelator" and "...you bet your pretty neck I do!"
or maybe evoke Mr. Withers in an almost boastful worship, "Grandma's hands..."
About the time of her diagnosis, my mom and I had gotten close enough that we could talk like those coffee commercials mothers and daughters
friendly like a professor and an alumna,
bridging the gaps between headstrong fledgling, confident hawk, and time wizened owl.
One day she sighed, a rare sound full not of distress or agitation, but oddly enough, longing...
"I wish I had hands like yours," she lamented. I had never heard my mother sincerely wish for anything selfish before.
I have never, and dare I say hardly ever will, heard something so preposterous. I am fourth in a line of strong, sturdy women who carry this name, a name I feel inadequate for
healers and prayers, slaves and sovereigns. Warriors and worshippers. Hearts and hands that held and hurt, beautiful in their resilience and perseverance.
My mother got the finest of qualities. A fortitude to rival any force of nature til the last, and a gentle elegance that was very much envied.
I'm the oddity with my father's utilitarian build; not sleek and feminine but worthy of the line.
My palms are wide and fingers long, from holding tools, mending clothes, carrying bodies, playing instruments. And here was my dainty handed, fine boned mother wishing for my hands.
I couldn't understand it. "Ma'am?!?" I was confused enough to let my incredulity slip. Surely she'd had enough rum for the night, and I edged the bottle closer to me between us.
"You have good hands," she said, as if that explained everything. "They're from our side." She meant, of course, my maternal side. A reassurance taken up in my uncertain youth.
"So do you, Mommy." I took her hand in mine, held back a snort of laughter at the predictable cup mishap that had doused her fingers. She couldn't help it if everything in the universe
wanted to jump up and kiss her.
I looked down at our overlapped hands; hers work thin and refined, nails lacquered just so, and mine ruddy and blunt, scarred from stress and innate clumsiness,
and realized how much I had taken her for granted, and how deeply I would carry her with me.
It was a year gone too quickly but lived too full before she slipped away on a Monday evening, just after watching her favorite tv show.
I sat holding her hand, refusing to cry but willing her to stay, and as those moments passed she covered our clasped hands with hers, gave a squeeze and closed her eyes.
We had seen enough funerals between us in our short time together to have forged New traditions to celebrate a homegoing. I didn't know when I had started sewing the lace those many months before
as I worried through waiting rooms and out patient chemo, hospital stays and hospice, that I was making the Wish Gift. A pair of silk lined purple lace gloves, in our size.
Sown inside the lace of the wrists, "Just for you, Mommy. Until we can reach out our hands together again."