This piece from Donna was written before we started engaging in social distancing…to me, it seems just that much more poignant…
by Donna Johns
I hold my newborn granddaughter in my arms and do an inventory. Hair? Maybe red. Eyes? Probably brown because of brown eyed dominance. Nose? Tiny, so not a long nosed Swede. Complexion? Somewhat lighter than her sister. Mouth? Her mother’s cupid bow. Her hands? Oh my, her hands.
From her first photograph, those hands were compelling. Broad palms and large fingers wave through the air, as though she is trying to make sense of her new world by touch. She flings them over her head, stretches out her fingers, swoops her hand over her face, then straight out. She grasps your finger, then moves across her face, samples a thumb and then begins to explore again.
She has my grandmother’s hands. Farm girl hands capable of hard work and loving touches. For years I watched Grammy Signe as she transformed flour, milk, yeast, sugar and cardamom into a recalcitrant dough. Patiently, those hands would work the dough, pressing her palms into the stickiness, flipping the edges, pressing her palms again until a smooth, satiny dough bloomed. Those hands lovingly shaped the braids and rolls. Those strong hands pulled heavy iron cooking sheets from the oven, laden with delectable sweet bread.
My grandmother’s hands were never idle. They dusted and swept and mopped and scrubbed and cooked and baked and tidied. Every night after dinner clean up, she would sit at the kitchen table and play solitaire as she smoked a Parliament cigarette. Even the solitaire game kept her hands busy as she flipped cards, made rows, set up her aces. Sometimes she won. Most of the time she didn’t. She would sigh, bundle the cards together and try again. In solitaire, as in most things, she was a patient optimist.
And now here are Signe’s hands, replicated in miniature, in her great great granddaughter. Who knows what adventures these hands will have, what order she will create out of chaos, what talents she will display? That is the blessing of a newborn life, open to any number of possibilities.
The baby’s hands wave in front of her face as her eyes begin to close. She manages to capture her thumb in the corner of her rosebud mouth. She sleeps, held in my arms. Her hands are still for now.
Sweet dreams, Rosalind.
Donna is also a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, and sometime director of community theater. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.