The Hands of My Mother

My mother, Eleanor, is 81 and sometimes in the early evening she sits at the dining room table, a cup of tea steeping nearby, and pauses in the middle of a conversation to look at her hands.

“These are the hands of my mother,” she says, examining the skin, spotted with age, and the fingers, gnarled with arthritis. Then, each time, she tells me of the day her mother—my grandmother—said the same thing to her. “Ever since,” my mother says, “I’ve seen myself growing older as my hands become hers.”

For a newborn, a mother’s hands are a constant cradle. They caress, they clean, they comfort. They provide security, transportation and support. Within those hands, the child grows. From them, she learns how to grasp, how to eat, how to care for another. They leave an impression so indelible it is no wonder that daughters see their mothers in themselves.

These are the hands of Ines Lehman of Mill Valley, and within them she holds her daughter, Maya, who some years in the future may glance at a fading magazine page and wonder if she, too, has the hands of her mother.

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”
—Oscar Wilde