1984
My Mother’s Hands
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“My Mother’s Hands,” Ensign, Feb. 1984, 23

My Mother’s Hands

1. My Mother’s hands were always busy.

My memory spans the years,

Crowded with indelible impressions—

Her hands were beautiful and strong.

I watched them knead and shape

The high, rich loaves of bread,

The dough snapping,

The bubbles popping,

As she placed them in the pans

To rest and rise in neat perfection.

Sometimes she would pinch off

Little knobs of dough for me,

And I would practice her art

With childish fascination.

2. Her hands had special strengths

To wash and wring the clothes,

Rubbing and scrubbing them along the board,

Gathering them up in pleats and puckers,

Twisting them into coils like

Stretched candy,

Then shaking them loose

For further rinsing or hanging on the lines.

There was authority in her hands,

And power!

3. Tacks in her mouth,

Hammer in her hand,

She half-soled our shoes,

Having cut and shaped

The leather with the butcher knife.

She had the iron feet to fit

Our different sizes,

And held them on the staff

Between her knees

Like other women held the harp.

(Was hers any less an art, I wonder?)

4. Her hands cooled fevered flesh

And bathed sick bodies,

Combed out tangled curls,

Fluffed up pillows,

Smoothed sheets,

Arranged quilts and blanket,

In a symphony of peace.

And it was not uncommon for her

To deliver babies,

Bathe and clothe the dead,

Home the orphan,

Comfort the bereaved.

Her hands were ever busy

At the bier and bed,

And neighbors never suffered

If she knew their need.

5. I watch her hands today

Plucking,

Searching,

Lifting,

Turning,

The fingers busy

On querulous errands

Among the bed clothes.

She does not rest.

She lifts her hands.

Is she praying, pleading,

Summoning those we cannot see?

We catch her wandering hands,

Hold them, press them, kiss them,

Remembering back along the years,

And we feel the stinging of our tears.

Painting by Annette S. Trunell