Thursday, July 2, 2009


Journal for Christa-- (from February 17, 2009)

I never really thought of it at the time, but I’ve come to believe that it’s good for people to do things with their hands—something more than wiping snotty noses and rinsing dirty diapers. When I looked at my hands in my twenties, those were the activities I equated with them. Yet, there were other things they did to earn the wrinkles I lament today.

Jay has always said that “necessity is the bean soup of creativity.” And, my partner in poverty and creativity was often my best friend Maxine. Everyone should have such a friend. Maxine is an artist. I am not. But, she gave me inspiration to do things with my hands that I would have never attempted on my own. She babysat the kids so I could go to a ceramics class once a week with Priscilla. Hence, came the Hummel style nativity pieces we carefully put out each Christmas.

Then she decided I needed to learn tole painting, which is really just pseudo-painting that makes you feel talented when it’s actually tracing and technique. Each week Max conducted her painting class with Priscilla, me, and Carl. Carl and Debby had lost a baby right before Mel was born (but that’s a different story). For Carl painting was therapeutic. For me it was another skill to accomplish with woman hands.

We picked strawberries and froze them. Max said to pick the small ones because they are sweeter. Then, we took on canning and planted gardens in Tennessee fertile soil. We cross-stitched and sewed and even cut out and sanded our own wood pieces to paint. Our hands were nimble, strong—and we were young.

As children grew and youth passed, I exchanged wiping noses for grading papers. And one by one the talents of my hands lay dormant—incomplete projects of guilt instead of the one-time pleasures of my hands. But as seasons passed, I found my hands again taking up those projects that had lifted me on wings of creativity during years of daily sameness.

When I was pregnant with Joel, I started crocheting an intricate afghan. I brought it home from the hospital too done to toss and stuffed it in a plastic bag that lay on a shelf for years. The year that Joel was in Iraq, hands more weathered and somewhat stiff took down the bag, and with old yarn old hands meticulously relearned the stitches and passed the evenings, weeks, and months till his return.

One year at the faculty Christmas party, I’d taken a gift I was embroidering for Jay’s mom. Pat, the science teacher, commented, “Debbie, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without something in your hands. Are they always busy?” I thought it a nice compliment.

Last summer we took a picture of our hands. Callie’s was baby perfect; Mel’s, beautiful; mine, wrinkled; and Mom’s, just old. Maybe the appeal of those photos is the symbol of a woman’s hands—
hands to wipe a tear,
hands to lift in praise,
hands to fold in prayer--
I’ve come to believe that it’s good for people to do things with their hands.

Hoping you see your hands in a new way this week—

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