Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Right Hand

In eighth grade gym class we were all lined up out on the field practicing the long jump. I was a little shorter than my peers, but had powerful legs from years spent as a center midfielder in soccer. I didn't have breasts and my hair never feathered right, but by golly, I could run fast and jump hard. I was in the full glory of my longest long jump ever, arms windmilling, loving every second of it when I realized someone had left the rake at the back of the pit. There's really no way to stop jumping when you've gone that far. I put my hand down to steady my descent and landed with the heel of my hand, followed by the full force of my body in flight, on the rake. I took a second, pulled my hand off of the rake, sat and looked at the giant puncture wound filling with blood and yellow gristle from inside my hand and promptly walked back across the field, into the school to the nurse's office. The nurse took one look and called my dad to take me to the emergency room for a tetanus shot and a butterfly bandage.

At my first post-college job, I worked as an event planner for a catering company. When I got tired of listening to brides and socialites quibble over cash bars or table linens, I would seek comfort in the bustle of the kitchen. The crass and rude chefs would let me help them cook because I wasn't afraid to get dirty and I would do things like roll 2000 raw scallops in bacon. (Do you even know what your hands smell like after that?!) It was my meditation. I could get sweaty and filthy and reek of seafood and grease and not have to mind my manners or sell anything or worry that the china service was all wrong. One day I was pulling a tray of spinach and feta triangles out of the oven and touched the base of my thumb to the oven rack. My rubber glove melted and burned onto my hand. I didn't want the chefs to think I was a wimp, and we had an event to get out the door, so I finished loading up the food before I went to the bathroom to peel off the glove and a layer or two of my skin.

A few years ago while we were camping, I went to retrieve a kite from our giant old Volvo station wagon while my family frolicked in the field several yards away. I watched them wrestle and run and play in the sunshine, completely overtaken in a moment of pure and blessed perfection. I slammed the door on my pinky. Unbelieving, I just yanked my finger out of the door instead of opening it. As I looked at the inside of the tip of my pinky, it occurred to me that I might be hurt, so I did what any rational person would do. I shoved the end of my finger back in place and went to go fly kites with my family. The Chief Lou noticed that I was grayish in the face and that there was blood dripping off my hand and insisted that probably the kite flying could wait.

courtesy of morguefile.com
While I am generally ambidextrous, I favor my right hand. It's my primary writing hand, and its the one I unconsciously turn to in a crisis. It is the hand that's always out there in the forefront of whatever I'm doing. I have a large lumpy scar on the butt of my right hand right where my life and fate lines intersect. I have a dark purple line across the base of my right thumb. I have a Franken-nail on the pinky of my right hand. I have these and countless other scars on my right hand from where it has taken the heat, stopped my fall, and run interference for me when I've operated beyond my limits. My kids like to look at my hand and trace the scars, to hear the stories and to squeal with horror and awe. This hand of mine that's battered and worn will never be used to advertise diamond rings or Palmolive. But it's my primary writing hand. It tells stories. It speaks in twisted lines and singular silhouettes of times I have flown farther, jumped longer, worked harder, and lost myself in the moment like never before. It's my right hand.

20 comments:

  1. Nice post. It's amazing how hurt we can be without realizing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've just said something extremely profound that I shall have to think about some more: "It's amazing how hurt we can be without realizing it." Hmmm.

      Delete
  2. Yep. So I got goosebumps from your right hand stories.

    Have you heard the story of a mother whose daughter asked her why her hands were so ugly and scarred? Her mother answered, that one night she left her daughter at home, and went over to the neighbor's house to borrow something. The neighbor ended up starting a conversation, that was soon interrupted by smoke coming from a house fire nearby. As the mother ran back home, she discovered in horror that her house was the one in flames. Despite firefighter prohibition, she ran inside the house, took her baby from the crib, and began to make her way out of the house. She tripped and stopped her fall with her hands, holding her baby wrapped in blankets in her arms. Her hands burnt, her dress tattered and her lungs filled with smoke. But she made it out, and kept her baby safe. As she finished the story, her daughter kissed her mother's hand and said, "These are the most beautiful hands in the world." And they were.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it!

      Delete
  3. Hi,

    I'm visiting through NaBloPoMo. Love your attitude to that injury...kite flying and having fun are important, but their importance pales a little bit when you're nursing having removed part of your finger. Looking forward to reading more from you as NaBloPoMo goes on.

    Best wishes,

    Casey

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it was shock more than anything. Sort of disbelief that I had actually seen the inside of the tip of my pinky finger.

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

      Delete
  4. You make me look at my hands. I generally prefer not to look at them as they are weathered and worn. The daughter is always after me to wear rings and I just roll my eyes b/c I would never want to draw attention to my hands. But you made me think about this for a moment. They are weathered b/c they have worked hard: in yard, in the sink, on the keyboard, and slathered with paint flecks and splashes of gesso. Here's to hands that have a story to tell!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! And I wonder what forces would drive one to be ashamed of such wonderful hands?

      Delete
  5. You made me cringe with that one. Our hands are so important, one of those 'take for granted' things.
    How cool that you're ambidextrous.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I loved this story- and how odd that just tonight Ian made a comment about my hands that made me write out a quote for an upcoming post. As always, you're reading my mind:) I love the stories behind all my scars as well. Thanks for sharing yours!

    p.s. I'm ambidextrous as well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hooray for ambidextrous mind-readers! ;) I can't wait to read your post about your hands.

      Delete
  7. I love this post! My hands right now are rough and dry and no amount of lotion will solve the problem, but my kitchen is clean and scrubbed and my children are fed and happy and it's all good. It's all so very good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is all so very, very good, indeed!

      Delete
  8. "I have flown farther, jumped longer, worked harder, and lost myself in the moment like never before. It's my right hand."
    Wow, great post! You always cause me pause and think. To remember my injuries, which have transformed into rich moments in life's adventure. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey thanks! It's a consternation to me that we, as humans, are expected to have all of this life experience but our bodies are not supposed to show it. It makes no sense.

      Delete
  9. As always, you turn things over in my head. I was thinking last night of trying to describe the sky during and after a storm and the only words I could come up with were yours. Well done, TL.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure that's true. I'm not sure I've ever described a sky during & after a storm that you've read. They must've been your words!

      Delete
  10. Again with the paying attention to things the rest of us barely notice. What are we going to do with you? Oh, that's right--continue to be inspired by you. Thanks. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, MM! :)
      "What are we going to do with you?" is a question asked of me often and in a variety of circumstances.

      Delete

Thanks for reading and taking the time to say hello!