My Mother’s Hands

by Elaine

My Mother’s hands were always busy. She was earthy; my mother, her hands often covered in soil, planting , weeding, digging. Her hands following her well thought plans, shaping her ideas with flowers and garden beds. The salt laden winds by the beach were a constant challenge. The hot dry westerlies would burn leaves and cook the hydrangeas. Quickly her hands would get to work, hosing, shifting sprinklers, assessing the growing conditions.

One day when I was five, my mother’s hands were busy at the sewing machine on the side veranda. She was making, adjusting or mending. I can still hear the comforting sound of the Singer as I played just outside on the doorstep close by.  My own hands were picking fleshy leaves from the radiant sun jewels. Slowly I was drawing wet outlines on the hot cement pathway, I watched fascinated as the lines evaporated and vanished in the heat.

My mother’s hands were strong. She loved to beat the cake mix by hand, roll out biscuits, and carefully construct the fine slices of ginger into a frangipani pattern on top of lemon icing.

Together we would string beans, in preparation for an evening meal. Top and tail, then push the beans thru a metal instrument which transformed the robust freshly picked bean into thin green wobbly strips. For me these were companionable moments on a busy day, often an escape from homework. Much later after she had died, I heard it reported her saying “stringing beans helps to grow patience. Some of the best times we had were preparing vegetables for dinner. “

My mother’s hands held instructions, guidance of sorts. I felt she held me back many times. I understand a little more now how much she struggled to contain my triple fire intensity. I wasn’t an easy child, she said.