My mother used to say disparaging things about her hands. She felt embarrassed by them, that they were ugly somehow. Her comments were kind of like weather moving past me, around me, nothing directed toward me, just a front of sudden feelings that quickly passed as she moved on deliberately into the world of things and what could be ordered.
Unwittingly, she contributed to the air I breathed that circulated in my blood, deep into my bones, an initiating rite to reduce and reject parts of a female body – bludgeon, burn, bury – inculcated culture, a collection of history.
I have her hands. I understand now. They are big. Veiny. Mine with added marks burned by sun. Knuckles exceeding standard size in the gnarl of genetic arthritis. Far from pretty, or dainty, not something to decorate with jewels or color of nails to display and draw attention.
I hear my mother’s self-mutterings echo in the daily dexterity these hands engage.
But I refuse to disown.
They demonstrate, direct, defend, draw in, design, delve deeper into the tactile sense of living. They feel determined to me. They remind me of all the strong women who came before me. They deliver my art.
I stare at them now as they type these words. The map of color and lines measure the topography of not only my life, but the lives before and after me.
The continuation, as Thich Nhat Hanh spoke of while holding my daughter’s hand up to show the eager western audience a Love that never leaves. He said, ‘this hand, is your mother’s,
your father’s, and the mothers and fathers before’, as the tears fell from the heartache of our broken histories and lost heritages.
Ta-Nehisi Coates said of memory: “. . . so much you can’t do if intent on forgetting, so much more you can do if you grab it by the reigns”
We are taught to move on, the past is past, get over it, don’t want to dredge all that up, forgive and forget . . . (what were you told?)
History is to be integrated. Its’ accuracy corrected. The ‘negative’ to illuminate us. The emotion to be experienced. Once we can bear to see the ‘image’ of feared parts of past, how their influence works us in the background, we can find reclamation of possibility as we bring to the foreground that which orchestrates our every movement, now made visible.
From there we can take these hands and begin to sculpt.
Re-Turning, Re-Membering, Re-Informing the Meaning.
"The past is never dead. It's not even past." -Faulkner