Mirrors and Tools of the Soul . . .
The first hands I was aware of were my father’s. Basically they were well formed, but a life time of carpentering and other hard work, had toughened the skin and nails until they were rough and work-worn as no others I, as a child, had seen.
Yet, Dad’s hands were sensitive. I remember them as he held a piece of wood, gently feeling the edges to see if it needed more smoothing. I saw his hands following the grain of the wood to make certain he had maximized its beauty, and it was as I watched his hands that I became aware of the beauty of polished wood. And of hands.
I don’t know how he could feel any roughness, for I would have thought it needed thin, soft skin to sense any snag or error. But when Dad finished a piece of furniture, it was done in a way today’s machine-made furniture can not rival.
I remember seeing Dad, almost without thinking, reach out to touch and gently rub some fine piece of furniture. I sensed it then, and now know, that his touch was a caress for its beauty. Yes, he had ‘rough and ready’ hands from a lifetime of hard work, but they were also the sensitive, sensual hands of an artist.
And I remember Gram’s hands. I heard her once say, that when she wanted a job done well, she had to ‘get her hands into it’. I can still see that dear woman’s hands as she cooked, going from stove, to frig, table, to set the table or cut a cake. Each movement sharp, clean and precise. No fumbling in the action of her hands.
And perhaps most vivid of all, because it seemed so ‘out of character’, was when she used their ancient Remington typewriter, that I now wish I saved. But she sat at their dining room table, making out her husband’s, (Gramp’s), weekly reports to be mailed to the Smelter office in New York. Incongruous to see Gram, of all people, there at a typewriter, poking away with one finger, yet doing it acceptably, too.
My husband, AW’s hands were far more beautiful, even for a man, than mine as a woman’s. I had seen those same hands on his father, then again on one of our sons, and know that the genes run straight and true.
One time when our son, JR. then in his teens, almost adult, reached across the dinner table for some dish, and for one swift moment, seeing only the hand, I thought it was the father, not the son reaching out. Yeah, hands follow the blood line as any other feature.
I watched young Michael’s hands, another generation, as they began to lose their baby star-shape and I knew his hands would be replicas of Gram’s. And I smile, for though Gram is long gone, I am reminded of her as I watch Mike, her grandson, reach out with a gesture in the same delicate manner that was hers. Hands that seem to never be meant for menial tasks, yet Gram did many such a chore and I’m sure Michael now does the same.
Then there was Stan whose supple fingers brought the keys of his piano to life in a way that. even in remembering, brings goose pimples to my skin. And, in a different manner, I watched Bob Prince, down at the old Murray Printing Company, where, swiftly and surely, he put a full-page ad together, (as was then the way it was done), with nary a wasted motion.
I see my Carol’s hands as she makes beauty from thread and a crochet hook, and recall Jonathan’s as he bent over his cello and pulled your heart strings with the beauty of hands and music.
Yes, I love hands . . . . they truly are the tools of our Souls.