I remember spending time with only one of my grandparents. My mother’s mother. I remember what her house smelled like. I remember riding in her car with the windows down. I remember how cool the linoleum tile floor in her kitchen was that time she and I were under her long wooden table trying to trap some evasive mercury that was darting around after I had accidentally dropped and broken an old glass thermometer.
I can still see the sunlight that streamed in through the kitchen windows and mixed with the sprays of water against the wood cabinets when we washed dishes in the sink and her hands when she rolled meatballs or cracked pecans. I know that the two of us probably caught thousands of roly-polys right off of the front step of her house, and I can still remember her standing in front of that camellia bush in full bloom.
We used to lie in her bed and hold hands at night. She watched tv late, a treat I could participate in too. I thought her hands were so soft even though her thin skin was so wrinkled. I could easily make out her veins and often the tops of them were bruised, but I remember how velvety and forgiving her hands felt when I rubbed my fingers over the valleys between the bones.
She used to rub my hands too. She told me that a woman could try to hide her age in many ways, but her hands would always tell on her. She warned me to keep my skin hydrated so that my hands didn’t one day look like hers while she twisted her hands around mine to remove the excess lotion.
My husband introduced our kids to the hand-pile game while we were at a restaurant one time. We were waiting for our food and the older two were getting restless. He showed them how, once all of our hands were stacked on top of each other’s, each of us could take turns pulling one hand out of the bottom of the pile and moving it to the top of the stack, saying, “Don’t get stuck on the bottom!” each time.
My older son grabs for my hand anytime I sit next to him. I often hear the baby say, “Hold hand, Mama” just to walk through the house. Most of the time in the car, you will find my husband and my interwoven hands perched on the console between us.
The boys have long fingers like me and it is fun to watch them learn how to use them, picking up bugs or holding a crayon to draw a picture. My daughter’s are shorter like her father’s, and that makes me smile.
I do not like it when my kids are sick, but there is something special about those drowsy cuddles that come after rescuing a crying child in the middle of the night. My husband did just that when my daughter started crying about an hour after we put her to bed last night.
The three of us snuggled under a blanket, all holding hands in a pile. I watched as my daughter used her little fingers to poke at the freckles on the top of my hand and rubbed my dry, cracked knuckles. She moved to Ben’s hand, traced his fingers and scars and paid extra attention when she got to his nails. She finally settled by putting one of her hands on each of ours and patting softly.
I couldn’t help but think about all of those late nights, holding hands with my grandmother. I don’t remember what we were watching or what we had for dinner or what color her bedspread was. But I do remember how holding her hand made me feel. I hope I always remember how these family hand pile-ups feel. I hope my kids do too.
To subscribe for email delivery of Typically Not Typical, type your email address in here: