Saturday, May 8, 2010

Her hands.

I don't know what I was doing when I made the discovery.   I glanced down and maybe the sun danced across the top of them.  But there they were, my mother's hands.  How did that happen?  Funny how we see the same parts of ourselves daily, and yet, they change, and transform until one day they are no longer your own.  So now I have my mother's hands.  I still have the long and skinny fingers.  But the bones and joints are more prominent than ever.  Plus the blue and ropy veins are nearer the surface, crisscrossed like a web across the backs of my hands.  Old lady hands.

I was afraid this might happen.  I'd often looked at my mother's hands as a portrait of what mine would hopefully never be, while knowing one day they probably would.   My mother's hands are aged, wrinkled, and filled with battle scars from having used them in rugged conditions.  My mother has worked in food prep for 33 years at Concordia College.  She retired in December.  Her last job was preparing over 250 dinners daily, for our community Meals on Wheels program.  Her hands bore the brunt of her labor. At times as many as 4 or 5 fingers have been bandaged, with nails split and peeling, fingertips with deep cuts, and dry skin that cracks like eggshells.  

A few weeks ago I went with my mother to an appreciaton dinner for staff and retirees at the college my mother worked at.  We were escorted to a table at the front of the reception hall.  We sat with the Director of Dining Services and all the top managers.  My mother was the only one to receive an exquisite bouquet of flowers.  She was treated as though she were nothing short of royalty.

I had prepared for small talk and polite conversation.  But when the director opened up about the struggle she was having with her teenage daughter, I realized, these weren't just co-workers, they were extended family.  I listened with interest as she sighed with the frustration of her daughter wanting to attend college, but not at Concordia. The best perk for  working at the college, is the tuition discounts that you can earn after 10 years of service.  With the cost of tuition, room, and board currently at 33,000 dollars a year, a waiver of nearly 90% of those costs, is an amazing benefit.

The rub comes in the fact you have to attend Concordia.  If you choose a school not in this area, it doesn't apply.  If you start school at another college and then come back, it doesn't apply.  I know this so well, because I was like the Director's daughter, 20 years ago.  Even with my mother's huge tuition discounts looming, I did not want to attend Concordia.  I wanted away, out, far off, any place but here.

With growing pressure from all sides of my family, I eventually caved.  Even though I resented feeling like I had no choice.  I could relate to the Director's daughter.  I knew she wanted to make her own decision.  She wanted to control and choose her future.  I could see her, as I had once seen myself.

20 years have passed since then.  What I would tell her now, is that I wasn't truly as ready to be away from family, as I thought I was.  I saw my roommate suffer from being homesick, far from family, removed from any comfort or familiarity.  I, on the other hand, was confident.  I was at ease in my familiar surroundings and unfazed by the rigors of college life.  I thrived at college.

I don't think my mother used this as an argument to sway me back then.  She used an iron-clad fist of resolve. Those hands.  I noticed them again at the banquet that night.  A glint in the light caught my eye and I noticed she had painted her nails with a clear shiny coat.  Her nails are longer now, smoother.  Retirement has softened the rough appearance.

But what can't ever be taken from them, is what lies under their appearance.  Their strength, their ceaseless work, their labor.  I sat amongst a room filled with people who would testify to the trials those hands have been through.  And there I sat, the one who had reaped the biggest  benefit from her hands.

Its true.  My hands are beginning to look just like hers.  Yet, once you get past the wrinkles and the purple-blue veins, I've come to see they have an understated grace to them.  An elegance really.   I can only hope 30 some odd years from now, my hands have their own story to tell, as worthy as my mother's story.


Happy Mother's day to all moms everywhere!

Giveaways Galore!

*** Last chance to enter my CSN Stores giveaway for a $50 gift certificate here... contest closes at noon Sunday, on Mother's Day! ***

To enter one of Robynn's three giveaways for Chipotle, Great Harvest Bread Co., and/or the Dvd, Food, Inc., please go here.

One more, Megan over at Polish the Stars has just opened a brand new Etsy shop with beautifully hand crafted totes, belts, and hair ribbons to name a few.  So head on over to Megan's for your chance to win a gift certificate to her store!


  1. Wonderful post, Vicky! I too, wanted to go far away to college but my parents (my Dad in particular) wanted me to stay near home. So I did. In the end, I was glad I did. I ended up attending college with my best friend and I have great memories of that time.

    It is funny how when growing up, we never thought our hands, face or hair would ever look like our Moms. But, somewhere in our mid 40s, we look in the mirror one day or look down at our hands and see that we are beginning to look like our Moms and it is not such a bad thing at all. It is actually an honor.

    Happy Mother's Day!

  2. What a beautiful way to acknowledge your mother (and yourself as a hard-working mom) and mothers everywhere. Thank you Vicky - and Happy Mother's Day to you.

  3. Beautiful tribute. Happy Mother's Day Vicky!

  4. Eileen, I think that is so true, so much of us becomes like them. At the point someone is telling us this will happen, we don't always want to hear it. Then it happens, and its more of a blessing than imagined.

    Bonnie, thank you :)

    Karla, any special plans for Mother's Day? I think we will be pretty low key around here. Hope you have a happy day :)

  5. What a great post and wonderful tribute to your mother! My husband actually works with Concordia College, managing their bed lofting program! It's always funny to me whenever I read about familiar places on a blog of someone I have never met. Such a small world that we live in. Thanks so much for supporting my little shop by mentioning my giveaway!

    - Megan

  6. I love your mother's hands...sigh.

    I, like you looked down one day and there were my mothers hands. At first I was horrified at how old they looked but pretty quickly I felt comfort spread all through me.

    I'm glad you still have your precious mom to love on.

    Happy Mother's Day to one of the best moms I know...smooch

  7. I can remember how dismayed my mother was when her hands began to look like her mother's ... and yet those hands were always ready ... in season and out to do whatever the situation called for. There was beauty there ... hope your day is especially blessed.

  8. Funny, I've been thinking the same thing lately about my ankles. *sigh*

    Beautiful post, Vicky.

  9. Very nice post Vicky...very honest.

    In my earlier years I too worked in food service for six years so I totally understand the work that your mom did. Bless her heart.

  10. What a nice story. I hope you and your mom have a wonderful mother's day.

    And about those hands... our bodies are not a reflection on how we feel on the inside. The lines, wrinkles and veins show that we are gaining experience and wisdom.

  11. The perfect way to start my Mother's Day. I loved this post. You're a warm-hearted writer, with the ability to really get a message across. I heave a sigh of reverence.

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  13. (Typo on that delete and you KNOW I had to fix it!)

    It's so weird. I woke up super early this morning after a crazy night and I looked at my hand resting on Grizzly's back and thought, "Now them'er some old and ugly hands, girlfriend." SERIOUSLY. I frequently greet myself like this in the morning. I would NOT be my own friend! lol

    But then I read your profound post and now I am extending a little more grace to my not-ready-for-prime-time hands. What a special way to honor your mom and what a beautiful lesson.

    Love You. Happy Mother's Day to you AND your hands.

  14. Oh dear and I thought I was the only one struggling under parental pressure! It's nice that parents these days let children decide what they want to do with their careers and life. I wish that kind of flexibility existed with the previous generations as well.

    But I guess when you don't get what you want and learn to accept your lot, you also see why it was better than your own choice.

    Here's a hug to the hardworking and amazing Mom of a lady who is truly amazing herself :) Happy Mother's day to both of you :)

  15. Megan, what a coincidence! I know there are many Concordia Colleges... the one I attended is in Minnesota... which one does your husband work with?
    I wish you the best in your new Etsy Shop!

    Robin, thinking of you today knowing how much you miss your mom. Hoping memories of your mom bring you some comfort today. XOXO

    Susan, thank you... hoping your Mother's Day is equally blessed.

    Karen, ha ha... ankles, that's a good one. Thank you.

    Lisa, I worked alongside my mother in dining services and can attest myself to the hard work too. Its definitely hard work.

    Liss, you have such a wise perspective and I so appreciate that. Its just taken awhile for me to appreciate exactly what you are saying... thank you.

    Kass, thank you, that is high praise to me coming from someone who has a true gift for words.

    Robynn, I don't recall your hands, but I do happen to know you have beautiful feet :) Yes, finding the grace is the trick isn't it?

    Tranquility... I am beginning to think that I am just a bit more willing to accept the alternative was acceptable when I didn't get my way... but it takes time to see it that way. I hope that makes sense. Thank you for your kind words!

    Vic, Happy Mother's day to you as well!

  16. happy mother's day to you....and hands that look like our mother's hands....oh i do believe that is a gift :)

  17. Happy Mother's Day Vicki!

    I loved reading your post today. One thing I remember most about my mother was her hands. Thanks for stirring up the memories.

  18. Oh, Vicky...this is so beautiful...both the form and heart of it!! You have written so poetically of your mother...your writing is heartwarming, authentic and flows like streams of water. You are amazing. I remember that you mother worked at the college, and that you have mentioned going with her to her retirement celebration...from a post...has it been a year? Or was it just last fall...I can't remember. But I do remember that your mother was much loved...and I have a feeling that your hands AND heart resemble hers. Happy Mother's Day! Love you, Janine XO

  19. I have noticed that my hands are more like mom's too. What a lovely post about your affection and admiration for your mother. You are a beautifully genuine writer. Your heart leads you. Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day!

  20. Beth, so good to see you here! I agree, its just taken me awhile to realize it :)

    Jen, I am so glad this brought good memories to you! I often think I will remember my mother's hands as well... still remember my grandmother's hands.

    Janine, thank you for your sweet words, they mean so much! Hands, shoes, etc., the metaphors they become for our lives :) Your memory is spot on for my mom! Sending much love Janine!

    Kelly, thank you, I am honored by your words! I hope you as well had a Happy Mother's Day :)

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