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    The Most Beautiful Hands

    I don't think there was ever a time my mom stopped doing things for me, even during those times that I was difficult, mean, and downright disrespectful towards her.

    When I was five, she was worried about me because it was my first day at school. But that morning, I shoo-ed her away when she tried to wait for my bus with me. She stayed behind the gates and still saw me off.

    When I was seven and stepped into first grade, I joined my first school competition, a poem reciting contest. She helped me memorize the poem. I vaguely remember the poem was about a turtle trapped in a box. I lost, but I still feel she was the best coach for me.

    In all the years I was in school, I never went to class in rumpled uniform or dreadful clothes. She ironed each piece of clothing into straightness, and no crease was ever out of place.

    She hand-washed every dress, shirt and pants and I never went out in clothes with stains or spots. She made sure I wore clean, fresh, crisp and neat clothes, even if they weren't new.

    I never went to school hungry or without lunch. She made sure she cooked something for me. We weren't always so well-off and in my younger years, she often didn't have money to give me so I went to school with packed lunch. More often than not, I was embarrassed to bring lunch to school. I was already in sixth grade and yet, I still brought lunch with me. I wanted to be like the other kids who had lots of money to spend and who bought any food they wanted at the cafeteria.

    Numerous times she went up the stage to put medals around my neck, and numerous times I took her for granted. She was a perfect mother and I was an imperfect daughter.

    I used to be angry with her whenever she tried to tell me something or lecture me. I wouldn't speak to her for weeks. I would stop eating the food she cooked, and avoid being in the same room with her.

    I was 23 when one of our worst fights drove her to the hospital because her blood pressure went up. This made me realize how wrong I was. And before I could utter the words, "I'm sorry, Mom," she had already opened her arms -- and her heart -- to me and welcomed me back.

    A few months after that incident, I was back to hurting her again. I had been desperately trying to cope with my depression on my own for 18 months. And that day, after I was spent shouting and hurling angry words at my mother, my dam finally crumbled and I opened up myself to her -- wounds, scars and all.

    I had been so afraid she wouldn't understand any of it, but I was wrong. She held me tight and together we cried. And as she held me, her hands never stopped stroking my hair. They gave me incredible comfort and they spoke unconditional acceptance of me -- however, whatever and whichever way I'd come to her. They spoke a million times of accepting and re-accepting me, no matter how many more times I would falter and hurt her.

    It is very seldom mom would get her hands manicured. Those few times, the color would chip off after only a day. It is because she had dishes to wash and clothes to launder and iron.

    My mother's hands are thick. They are calloused and blisters are all over them. Her fingernails are always short. The skin on her hands is dry.

    Anyone who sees my mother's hands will likely think her hands are ugly. I will be the first one to disagree. I know how she spent the hours using those hands for over 25 years. I know whom she used those hands for. I know the love that went into every blister, every scar, every dry cell, every broken nail.

    I look at her hands and I see the tangible evidence of her love for me. I will not have any more need for words to tell me of her love.

    My mom has the world's most beautiful hands. All I need to do is look at them to prove it.

    Copyright © 2000 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

    Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ is the author of the book, WEEKLY WRITES: 52 Weeks of Writing Bliss!

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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