I have always admired my grandma‘s hands.
She had slender elegant hands, rich cocoa brown,
lined with wrinkles, and stained with callouses.
Her right pointer finger formed a peculiar hook at the first joint.
A subtle turn that stopped you cold when you were
doing something you shouldn’t.
A quick beckoning to receive swift punishment.
Those hands were seldom still enough to be observed though.
They were always busy tending the garden, cleaning
the house, or cooking a meal. Caring for a child or Nursing the sick.
Planting seeds or harvesting a crop.
She was the one they called. Minervey.
Those hands would move moist soil back from a burgeoning onion
as gently as they could soothe a feverish forehead.
Her hands knew how to preserve and can food,
Storing it in the deep freezer for later use. Her hands would
caress the tattered notebook while she carefully dialed
numbers on the yellow rotary phone that hung on the wall in
her bright yellow Kitchen. She kept a delicate balance between
too much and not enough. She knew when to call on
friends to come partake of the bounty from last year.
She knew how to share, to make sure nothing was
wasted and everyone had enough.
It’s seemed that my grandmother’ natural state was in the garden.
that’s where she thrived. Life seemed to vibrate around her.
I remember finishing up my chores one day and peeking through
the window of the back bedroom where I could see her
walking through the rows touching, caressing, nurturing.
Each plant. Singing to it. Willing it to grow.
As she aged, she kept a chair in the garden. Of course I asked why.
She said. “You have to talk to the garden, let it know you care.” Those
hands caressed and nurtured children who came to her too.
By blood, kin or otherwise. She loved them just the same.
With her hands, her garden, and her heart.
I was my grandma’s shadow. I followed her everywhere.
When she walked through the rows touching the plants, I followed
close behind and reached out a tentative finger too. I dragged
the water hose from the faucet at the side of the house to the garden,
and moved it from row to row just the way she taught me,
careful not to allow heavy drops to damage delicate blossoms. Or heavy
hose to rake over precious growing things. She never used anything
attached to the hose. She taught me to use my fingers to shape and
control the stream of water. Tired fingers creating wide sprays as
gentle as a spring rain. Or a long jet of water to reach beyond
the end of the hose without knocking a single bean pod
off the vine, or laying down a struggling sprout. After work was
done, she scrubbed those hands clean.