All through preparations for my mom’s funeral, I knew that what I needed to do was to give of my talent, from my heart. An artist would paint, a photographer would snap, a seamstress would sew…and I–needed to write. Something. But the words refused to come.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday went by… I understood the imperative, but could not find the inspiration.

The funeral was this morning–Friday. It was now or never. No time to fuss, no time to edit and re-arrange and tweak. And it came, in a rush…

I remember my mother’s hands
Not elegant nor slender
But stout and strong and
always busy

My earliest memories are of those capable hands
Wielding a dust cloth, a dish rag, a scrub brush,
Feeding laundry through the wringer washer
pegging it out on the line to dry
Dipping a spoon into the magic paste
that would become the lumpy dumplings
in our favorite chicken soup

We coveted the gentle stroke
that would calm a fevered temple
And dreaded the near-scalping
when those hands came in contact with
any object surrounding a
shock of hair attached to the backs of our heads
(“It’ll only hurt for a second…!)

Those hands, nearly forty years old, were introduced
to the steering wheel of a station wagon in 1961
and carried on a love/hate relationship with that object
for the next thirty years
And in 1966, they traded the dust cloth and mop
for the pencil and the adding machine
The kitchen table for the desk at Woolworth’s–
another love-hate relationship that lasted nearly twenty years.

I remember those hands
fussing with the filmy folds of a veil around my face
taking needle and thread to the great hole in that veil
after I wrapped it around a barberry bush fleeing the rice-throwers
on a chilly October morning in 1976
Those loving hands…those mother’s hands

In retirement, those hands
Clutched a fishing pole or a handful of playing cards
(“I’ve got a hand like a foot!!”)
Tipped a watering can into one green thing or another
that always responded enthusiastically to her touch
stroked the soft fur of the latest adoptee
or sneaked forbidden bits to furry family members
waiting confidently at her feet under the dining table
Wrapped around a pen, dispatching volumes upon volumes of word puzzles
heavy with the rings and bracelets she loved to pile on
But busy…always busy

I hope now, wherever her spirit is going
they give her hands, as well as wings