By Jean Crawford Evans
I’m not sure when it happened, but I looked at my hands one day and realized they weren’t my own anymore, they were my grandmother’s. When I was younger my hands were smooth and unscarred. They would always be my hands, me, and no one else’s. Then I started noticing other things, the fine lines on my lips, the little wrinkles around my eyes. When did that happen? When you are young, everyone is old and you never imagine you will also be old someday. So waking up to my grandmother’s hands was a bit of a shock. I never noticed I was getting old. Doesn’t help when your brain keeps insisting you are still in your 20s!
We live in a society that worships youth and women are supposed to always appear as young as possible. Actresses we admire disappear as soon as they turn a certain age. Gray hair is not to be seen and heaven forbid you develop fine wrinkles! Women are not allowed to age, so when it sneaks up on you it is a shock. You have an image in your mind of how you look at any given age and it is probably still an image of you in your teens. When I was in my 20s a friend spotted a gray hair on my head. I, of course, freaked and had her yank it out. Gray hair belonged on grandmothers, not a 20 something!
I had noticed early on my mom had started to get the fine lines and wrinkles like her mother. I just never thought it would happen to me, it happened to other people. I couldn’t possibly be cursed like them. As I got older, through my 30s and 40s, I started to realize the wrinkled hands, the fine lines and gray hair weren’t faults or a curse, they were badges of honor. They were the signs that my grandmothers had lived life. They grew up, married, and had families, grandchildren, and responsibilities. My mom spent a lot of time raising my brother and me herself as my dad was in the Navy and he was gone a lot. Times like that we lived near one set of grandparents or another if at all possible. My grandma Mabel raised 3 boys and took care of quite a few grandchildren when we came to visit, along with raising chickens, tending a large garden and her church work.
My grandmother Florence was widowed when my mom and her sister were young and remarried. Both grandmothers came through the Great Depression, World War II and all the conflicts that followed.
My life turned out differently than the women who came before me. I married late, I had no children (at least the 2 footed kind), I’m still working full time, dealing with health issues and the blooming of my artistic self.
I looked at my hands one day and realized they weren’t my own anymore, they were my grandmother’s.
I’m not unhappy about it though, I loved my grandmothers and have very fond memories of them and their hands. Hands that worked the soil, baked, cooked, caressed and brushed my hair. The hands of my Grandma Mabel as she handed me a baby chick to hold. My Grandmother Florence’s hands as she tucked me into bed when I visited her and she handed me Little House on the Prairie to read.
Their hands told their stories, as my hands tell my story. I look at my hands and I remember all these and more and am glad I have their hands since this means they aren’t gone from my life. They are still with me in my hands, as my hands connect me to all the women in my family who came before me.