(that’s me on the left)
The hands go first, that’s Aunt Grace always said when I was a kid living with her. She used to make me do my Latin homework for her every morning at breakfast and then forbid me to write down what I’d puzzled out. It worked though: I got to where I could read just about whatever scrap of Caesar/ Cicero/Virgil you set down in front of me like it was writin’ on the ol’ cereal box. She was a Latin teacher herself and she knew her stuff. She always spoke of the poor kid reading aloud his own earnest translation of a passage in which he had somebody or other arriving at the palace not ‘with one bare foot’ but rather with a naked foot soldier. (Uno pede nudo: you can see it. Plus hey, it got lonely way out there in Western Gaul!)
But to get back to hands, the story she liked best to tell was about the day her Latin One class was working on a passage about some magical vat whose waters could make youthful even the most decrepit old soul when a shy boy in the first row peeked up at her where she stood beside his desk. “They wouldn’t have to do that for YOU, Mrs. S!” he whispered admiringly – until his eyes fell again toward the book she was holding: “Well maybe just for your hands.”
Ah your hands: once we girls could practically earn our living modeling them; then the day comes when we look down and they look like the hands of Ma Joad from The Grapes of Wrath. I look at my photo at the top of my piece two blogs down and all I see are my hands. Where are those hands with their tapered fingers and their long oval-shaped nails?
When I took up massage in the year 2000 I had to cut my nails clear down to the quick and even below but I didn’t look back. Let me do good with my hands now I thought because this is what they are for: work and not display.
Then I saw this close-up just the other day: (of my right hand, on the baby’s tummy.)
and so for the first time in my life hurried to my neighbor’s nail salon. “Make my hands look like Mary’s hands!” I said, Mary seen here below holding part of our cherry tree which when it died in the summer of ’06 we ritually took down and saved parts of (part of a part of which she is holding in those gorgeous paws of hers.)
I wanted paws like that too I decided and so after 70 minutes emerged from her nail salon with…. absolute talons, plumped up in some ungodly way to render them thicker and rounded, with that white rim that makes them French-style.
I felt great, if a little fraudulent – until Saturday night when I tried to go to sleep, which I couldn’t seem to do with my new appendages: They smelled too freshly of their chemical components when I brought my hands close to my face. Plus they’re so weirdly thick, they feel like the claws of an eagle when I try scratching my nose or scalp or ankle.So there have I lain, and for two nights now, sleeping only fitfully and waking to think WHO IS THIS PERSON IN THE BED WITH ME? WHO THE HELL’S HANDS ARE THESE?
The fact that they’re mine I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to.
I’m kind of a Woodstock girl is the thing so I don’t know… It’ll go one of two ways I expect. Either I’ll break all ten nails in the next 48 hours or grown too annoyed with how funny and foreign they feel, get out the mini-guillotine we use for the cats’ claws, lop ‘em all off and go back to being Ma Joad with the scary work-worn hands.