The Hands I Grew Up With

The hands I grew up holding were not soft, manicured hands that spent their days at rest. The hands I grew up with were rough, calloused: working hands. Walking through the park one afternoon–when I was three or so–my tiny hand encased in the strong grip of my father’s, my little toddler feet running and stumbling to keep up with his grown-man stride, I asked what should have been a simple question: “Daddy, why are your hands so rough?” In return, I got a so-called simple answer: “Because I work hard, honey. Hard work shows on your hands.” I giggled at this illogical notion, because as a child, I wanted to hear an electrifying story, like he had fought off a smoke-spewing, fire-breathing dragon, or saved a beautiful princess, my mother. I let it go, as my attention span was no greater than that of a goldfish—which is about three seconds. Instead, I made him open his hand up and let me poke and prod the hardened bumps of skin that lined up like soldiers at attention between his palm and his fingers. More giggles erupted from my mouth. I wanted to know why I didn’t have any, but settled with looking at his.

As I grew older and worked harder, my hands made me proud. They threw the perfect strike across the diamond, gripped the bat that reverberated with the vibrations of another hit, assisted in the execution of the perfect dressage test, cleaned tack, mucked stalls, and meticulously braided manes. With the continuation of this work, I received my own form of payment, not just the ribbons and trophies and prize checks: my own callouses. Reminders of the small victories. The blisters that had swelled, burst, healed. The problems that arisen, erupted, calmed.

My ring fingers could be called deformed. Although, deformed usually carries a negative connotation with it, so a better word could be scarred. No, scarred is damaged, broken. They are anything but broken. They are strong. Bruised, bumped, burned, but not broken. Broken is defeat. Broken is surrender. They are power, victory, success. Signs of the work I’ve put in, all the hours they have spent holding reins, bumping, nudging, adjusting. They began as blisters: swelling, then bursting, then healing.

People often apologize for their rough hands. Apologizing for what? A sign of hard work? Honestly, if I held someone’s hand that wasn’t rough, I would assume that they had a rewards card at the local salon. Too many manicures, too little real work. Which would automatically turn me around. How do you spend your life, sitting in a comfortable chair, your “work” typing on a touch screen? Real work is physical, and leaves marks. No, not beauty marks. Marks that could be deemed as ugly, but in my line of vision they hold their own as a shout to the world: I work for what I have.

The rough bumps that make their home on my hands have settled on a comfortable lifestyle. After all, they have already swelled, burst, and now healed. They deserve a good life.