Thursday, March 01, 2007


Lately my hands have been much on my mind. If you're reading this blog, no doubt your hands are very important to you as well.

I couldn't judge if I was a particularly whiney kid or not, but I do remember one thing I used to whine: "Mom, I need something to do with my hands!"

Fortunately she seemed to know what to do about that. I remember:
  • Sewing cards, the kind that had pictures of clowns, kittens, and puppies with holes punched in them so you could lace yarn through with a chunky darning needle.
  • Embroidery - blue pictures stamped on ready-made bibs and pillowcases. Metal hoops where the inner hoop was lined with cork. Coats & Clark six strand embroidery thread that came in more colors than even the biggest box of Crayola's. (If Vickie is reading this, I know she'll remember our little summer sewing circle on Owens Ave.)
  • A red metal potholder loom and a big bag filled with chunky cotton loops from some sock mill not far away (at least not across an ocean!)
  • Bags of scrap fabric that were sold as potential quilting material and a children's handcrank sewing machine that never worked very well. I don't remember that it had a bobbin of any sort and the needle certainly wasn't very sharp. I do remember abandoning it in frustration and just sitting with a needle and thread, stitching pieces together to create rather crude doll clothing.
  • The green and orange Coats & Clark "Learn to Knit and Crochet" pamphlet with a big skein of Red Heart ombre' yarn in primary colors, purchased with money for "baby sitting"neices and nephews. Accompanying these were chunky plastic knitting needles with aluminum caps, size "11" stamped on their ends. And an equally chunky size G aluminum crochet hook.
Of course there was play dough, clay, & paper mache'. There were forays into making puppet heads with these materials, followed by attempts to make garments for the puppets. I didn't care much about what play the puppets would be in, that was my friend, Patty's, domain.

And there was parquetry.....ah...who doesn't love parquetry?! Remember those smooth, thin wooden, geometric shapes colored in jewel tones, where one could make designs that would cover the whole table surface. (Hmm...I wonder where my son's old parquetry set is?)

My Mom wasn't particularly crafty or gifted in working with her hands. During one period in her life, she did some wonderful embroidery in pillowcases and dresser scarves. And later in her life she crocheted a bale of afghans for children and grandchildren, 'til it seemed that she alone was keeping Red Heart yarn in business. But she did place a lot of things in my hands which have had enduring value to me.

I hope that mothers of young children today have that same wisdom. After volunteering in our church nursery this past weekend, it seems to me that as a culture we are more interested in teaching children to push buttons for entertainment.

So that's the history of my hands. Let's move to the present. These days my hands are still busy:
  • They often fold in prayer, especially in this time of war.
  • They have been busy preparing meals more often with my son and husband around the house more these past weeks. Chopping vegetables, trimming meats, peeling potatoes, and chopping parsley all cause my hands to have a new fragrance to remind me what they've been doing.
  • They help prepare and serve communion on Sundays. My hands, holding a cool silver pouring chalice in one hand, while steadying the hand of the recipient. It's humbling to pass around the altar rail and see, up close, the hands of all those everyday hardworking people held out in sacramental prayer.
  • These past two weeks, these hands have been busy cutting 300 plastic bookmark templates and 1200 pieces of jewel toned ribbon to be made into hymn markers for the new hymnals we put into service this year. Last night, 56 people gathered to assemble the markers and insert them in the spines of the hymnals. Work, passing from hand to hand.

These hands:
  • groom me in the morning.
  • Feed me at the table.
  • They help me to cook and clean, sort and fold laundry.
  • I couldn't drive to all the places I want to go (remind me to tell you about the new yarn shop they took me to this week!).
  • They reach out to shake hands and give hugs in greeting.
  • They write thank you notes, get well cards, and condolence notes.
  • They grip weights and exercise machines to help keep the rest of my body strong.
  • They knit socks for my feet, hats for my head, scarves for my neck (and for my loved ones)
Is there any other part of the body that cares for me and others so thoroughly?

And so, that early plea for "something to do with my hands" has been answered. I thank God for my hands and the work given to them.

Moses said it best in the closing of Psalm 91:
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.


  1. Anonymous1:02 PM

    I do remember and there are days that I long for that simple life. Not only am I using my hands to type a reply...but I am using my hands to clap!!!!! Hooray for you, Valerie, and thank you for your wonderful writing and for taking me back to almost 50 years!!!! Love, Vickie

  2. I have long been fascinated with hands. I think that the obsession started in High School all those years ago. I have revisited hand imagery many times over the past years and right now I am working on an embroidered hand. I would be lost without my hands. I feel so sorry for those young men who have lost their hands while serving in Iraq.

  3. I became much more aware of my hands when I learned Tai Chi. The positioning, cupping, gently pushing, pulling, framing, fanning ... it was all rhythmic and attentive. Hands. Lovely essay Valerie.

  4. What a wonderful post. It's a wonderful tribute to your mom as well as to your hands. I remember looking at my hands as a child and being so fascinated that I had them. Amazing things.


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