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Coffee with Mimi: Importance of the hands of time

By Mimi Becker

Contributing writer

My five-year-old granddaughter recently told me that my hands look old.  They are wrinkly and the veins are bumpy.  They are also a little bit spotty. 

Truthfully, I was a bit taken aback with her quite-accurate assessment of my hands.

I made some bland response about the condition of my hands to that sweet little girl.  Her mom was a bit embarrassed, telling her something like “You don’t say things like that to people.”

According to backstage.com, a website for the modeling industry, being a hand model could be a lucrative career.  However, just like anything else it takes work.  Skin imperfections (spotty, wrinkly, and bumpy) could disqualify you.  Apparently, thumbs are the most important digit, so they should be perfect, whatever that means.  You must study other hands and practice displaying emotions with just your hands.  You must be able to keep your hands steady for extended periods of time.

Successful hand models often sleep wearing gloves and must avoid using their hands for any activity which could cause harm — even cutting vegetables was mentioned.  A top-notch manicure is essential and it must be maintained. 

Clearly, having nice hands takes a lot of concentrated and intentional effort toward that end.  It was not specified in the article whether aging disqualifies hands from a successful modeling career.  Is there a time when hands need to look retired?  What if the product being advertised is, say, filling out Part D of your Medicare insurance forms?

Several years ago, while I was still teaching, a dear friend was retiring from our school.  Through her many years of service, she had provided countless arts experiences to our students.  However, there was one play she had wanted to bring and had not yet been able to, even though she had fundraised for several years.  Several of us decided we would finish the job as a parting gift.

The play was about a group of women during World War II who worked in a parachute factory.  The title of the play was “What My Hands Have Made.”  As the war and their work progressed, the women interacted with each other.  They received letters from their loved ones, and shared in the good news and the bad.  Even as some received devastating news, they continued to work — with their hands.  They couldn’t save one of their own, but their work could save another.  A parachute could be a lifeline for another woman’s husband or son, so they continued to work. 

Recently, while preparing for the downtown church tour, a board member forwarded me an article about building.  Our focus on the tour was the art, architecture, history and culture of the spaces.  We would recognize and appreciate the differences in each denomination’s building over time and circumstances.    What this article pointed out was that in all structures, it is literally the hands of the community which make the results possible by building, rebuilding, cleaning and restoring.  Great art, architecture and preservation are made real not by a famous designer, but by the hands of countless individuals who leave their mark anonymously and move on. 

My dad was a big man.  He was tall with a large bone structure.  He wore about a size 15 shoe, I think.  But, I remember his hands.  They were big, too, and they were incredibly strong.  They seemed impervious to heat.  They were the hands of a man who had used them all his life to work in one form or another.   He was a great cook and a woodworker.   He worked in industry and gardened.  Those big hands could also build perfect, detailed doll houses and miniature furniture.

So, as I considered my hands in the eyes of a five-year-old, I can see her point (spotty, wrinkly and bumpy).  However, I decided they don’t dissatisfy me at all.  I’m not claiming they have done noble work like constructing solid and lasting buildings or life-saving parachutes, but I believe my hands have character, a trait we sometimes laughingly assign to some characteristics which may not look too great, but are just fine in the grand scheme of things. 

My hands haven’t provided a lucrative career conveying emotions by their movements, (although my students used to say I “talked” with my hands, does that count …).  They can check a child’s forehead for a fever, cook a decent meal or accomplish some yard work on a sunny day without undue anxiety over my manicure.

These hands can also hold a five-year-old’s tiny little hand when she wants to go for a walk.