My Mother’s Hands

March 8 2020 is International Women’s Day – and in preparation we’re being asked who is an inspiring woman in your life. I just lost mine. My mum died February 25th in her 95th year. She was my hero, the woman I most admired, and certainly a great inspiration to me all my life. I miss her deeply. But I am also deeply grateful for the rich, full experience that came with being her daughter, and I know full well how lucky I am.

My mother drove a stick shift 320i BMW that she deemed her little green jewel, and which, as she smugly informed more than one policeman who pulled her over for speeding, “just loved to fly!” People who rankled her with what she deemed phony behavior and insincere words were summarily dismissed, often with equally offensive language and usually a complete lack of regard for propriety. Cammie Christie not only marched to the beat of her own drum, she led a one woman band for much of her life, never deviating from the path she chose to walk. Sometimes she held a sharp axe in her fist, and was still chopping small trees down at 80; sometimes those lovely hands were covered in kid leather, and folded patiently in her lap while we were in church. I am glad that I have pictures of us holding hands. It is her hands I remember best, last, now that she is gone.

It has been a week since I last saw them, a week since I touched and kissed them goodbye. Such soft, paper thin skin, such a tiny, firm hand in mine – how could it be that it was now so utterly still, utterly stopped? My mother’s hands were rarely still, at least not in my clearest memories of her: clicking knitting needles being wrapped in yarn by deft, swift fingers; floury hands rolling then pinching pie crust over apples neatly pared and sliced; sure palms smoothing and guiding viyella fabric under the needle of her sewing machine, smoothing and pressing viyella shirts under the hot iron; I can see her hands building little fires in her kitchen woodstove with kindling chopped only minutes before. She could strip an antique chair with a thick piece of dull glass, steel wool old metal until it gleamed, and polish by hand hard wood floors. I treasure the memories of her hands at work.

It seemed she was always at work, always busy, always a little distracted by her innumerable tasks, not terribly surprising given that she had six children. My mum was certainly tender with us when she read stories at bedtime, sang lullabies each night, or soothed our brows when we were sick. But in the everyday world outside of our rooms she was not given to fond caresses or pinches on the cheek. Pinches in church to shush us, yes; frequent threats of getting out the wooden spoon, for sure. Memories of impulsive, warm hugs and gently held hands are far and few between. She was the least sentimental person in the world, I thought; she was certainly the busiest.

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My Mother's Hands

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Sarah Christie Prospero is a recently retired English teacher who's been waiting to begin her next incarnation as a writer since she was 6 years old. Her first book will be about her years teaching high school kids (to mostly great success....) and all the lessons she learned from them.
9 Responses
  1. author

    Anonymous5 months ago

    What a beautiful image etched here about Cammy – the stamp of a wonderful life lived in the service of family. It’s a hymn for one like me who had the privilege of sharing some moments with her, at the tail-end of it all, during my visits to her cottage at Marshall’s Bay, and appreciating stories she imparted through her eyes and lasting voice. I can just imagine the depth of love revealed through those hands.

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    • author

      Sarah Prospero5 months ago

      Thank you for your warm, generous response – Elizabeth?

      Reply
      • author

        Anonymous5 months ago

        MC

        Reply
    • author

      Maryclaire5 months ago

      What a beautiful image etched here about Cammy – the stamp of a wonderful life lived in the service of family. It’s a hymn for one like me who had the privilege of sharing some moments with her, at the tail-end of it all, during my visits to her cottage at Marshall’s Bay, and appreciating stories she imparted through her eyes and lasting voice. I can just imagine the depth of love revealed through those hands.

      Reply
  2. author

    June Rogers5 months ago

    A poignant piece. Your mother is lovingly remembered by a tangible feel. Hands are so important in our lives, especially when held by loved ones. Well done.

    Reply
  3. author

    Kevin Bray5 months ago

    What a tender and touching tribute to your Mom!

    Reply
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    Tony5 months ago

    Her feet were just gorgeous too! Thanks, Sally. You’ve got me all choked up and mushy.

    Reply
  5. author

    Barbara Tiessen5 months ago

    I loved this story. My now departed mom was also a hard working woman who said what needed to be said regardless of who was nearby. The wooden spoon was also my mother’s threat to her children and her independence, strength of character and iron will were her legacy to me.

    Thank you for reminding me

    Reply
  6. author

    Marlene4 months ago

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story Sarah. As I write this, my own mother is at her end of life – we are just waiting for a call – sadly, we are not able to sit vigil at her bedside, for as long as it takes due to this Covid situation we are in. At my last compassionate visit, I was only able to hold her hand with mine gloved in latex. A story is emerging …. hugs to you, writing friend… Miss you and I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother.

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