When I was small, my hands would dance before my face, practicing new motions, working new muscles. My hands would grasp the hands of my mother and father, the toys they brought to me, the food they taught me to eat. My hands were the gateway to everything I tasted, the tools that gave me everything I saw. Well, everything within reach anyway.
When I was a young girl, my hands played with my brother’s hands, and they dug in dirt, and danced to the tune of childhood. They would throw and pat, rip and build, dig and cover. They were constantly shifting from dirty to clean, as my mother fought off germs with soap and water, often muttering in frustration.
When I was older, my hands would struggle to keep up with my body’s growth and changes, and would try and hide the awkwardness that would shoot from me at unexpected moments. My hands were often covered in scrapes from trying to catch my many falls, and often covered my mouth to prevent me from saying “something stupid.”
When I was a young woman, my hands would pull my hair from in front of my face, would linger on my cheek, would dance the dance of new-found awareness. They were my front lines in my exploration of love, communicating things I didn’t even understand to the people around me. They were strong, and lovely, still so new that their skin was clear of any marks.
When I became a woman, my hands became the tools by which I earned a living, providing me with a new found independence. They danced the dance of sweat and syrup as I scooped tips off my emptied tables before wiping them down. They typed up notes and exams, learned languages, and carried the books that promised me the future. My hands wore the symbols of the promises I made to another, a ring, some burns from my first painful baking attempts, all the steps from the dance of mating.
When I became a mother my hands touched the heads of my children as they came into the world. Slimy, warm, and solid, the touch and feel of life grown inside me, pushed into the world by strength of will, hands gripping hands all the while. My hands were grasped by the small dancing motions of my babies’ hands, as the ballet began anew. Small perfect fingers wound around my hands, tracing the delicate wrinkles forming as their duties grow. My hands wiped up spit up, changed diapers, and introduced food and toys to my children. They still do. My hands dance the dance of domestic life, sometimes messy, often hard, always worth it. They are the tools I use to teach my children about the world they have to navigate, my hands hold tight as I lead them from one step to another. At times, they are eager to grasp too tightly, but slowly they are learning when they have to let go.
I watch my mother’s hands now, as she watched her mother’s before her. I see them, these hands that have now danced this ballet twice, and think how lovely they are. I am proud to know my hands were taught this dance by hers, and will dance this ballet with my children, and my children’s children. Proud to know that my hands will carry the knowledge of creating and caring for life, and will pass these steps onto to the dancers of the future.