When I was a kid, my grandmother would often run her work- and age-roughened hand over my smooth young one and comment on the contrast. I loved when she did that, but it bothered me a bit, because I thought she wished her hands looked like mine. Her fingernails were thick and ripply, and her fingertips were grooved and rough, but I loved every wiggly blue vein and wrinkled brown age spot on those hands. My grandmother’s hands were a testament to a lifetime of industry. She was rarely idle – even in her final decade she would sit in her chair, with the TV cranked up, doing the mending for my family (and our neighbors).
It has ocurred to me recently, that perhaps Grandmom wasn’t really envious of my youthful smoothness, or even the fact that my life stretched before me, while hers was winding down. Maybe she was feeling the continuum of life. Maybe she was showing me her pride in me, and her love. Maybe she was trying to pass on her creativity (worked!) and her work ethic (failed miserably!) Or maybe she just liked how smooth my hands were.
My mother is the grandmom, now, and I’ve seen her pat my daughter’s hand the same way my grandmother did mine. Whether it has any deeper meaning or not, I love this little tradition. I’ll continue it, if I’m ever blessed with a grandchild of my own.