Sunday, March 7, 2010

Show Your Hand

Fire Hand.

Or, show some appreciation for your hand.
I was out to dinner Friday night with friends and was noticing one woman's hands - they looked so soft and pretty. They were manicured and she had sparkling clear polish on each perfectly sculpted nail. I was looking sideways at her hands as I fumbled in my pocketbook for another fingertip Bandaid (I already had one on my dry split thumb) to put on my dry split index finger. (Otherwise, squeezing the lemon juice onto my crabcakes would have been an act of excrutiating torture...)
I often go into compare and despair about my hands. I call them peasant hands. This goes way back...
When we were in grade school, my sister Sue and I had a paper route in Norwood, the section of suburban Warwick, RI, where we grew up. For two or three years, we delivered the Providence Journal Bulletin every afternoon except for Sundays. As soon as we got home from school, we had to clip the wires off the piles of papers that were dropped by the Journal Bulletin truck at the edge of our driveway. We had wire cutters stashed in our trusty red Radio Flyer wagon, along with a large canvas shoulder bag. We'd count the papers, then divide them up, and one of us pulled the wagon, while the other would sling the heavy bag over her shoulder as we marched up Maple Street, folding the papers and tossing them onto screen porches and into front doorways, before rounding the corner onto Ash. We had sixty papers - a good sized route for two little girls - and it would take us till dinner time to finish delivering them to all our customers on those tree named, tree lined streets - and we'd return home after dark, ravenous for supper. Susan and I had to do the paper route. My parents both worked, but still struggled to make ends meet with a family of six. Two of our older siblings were in college at that time, and my father used the money we earned to buy our clothes. We were able to keep a small portion of the tips, and we were happy with that arrangement. Indeed, Sue and I felt rich as kings with our weekly allottment, and took it directly to Norwood Bakery where we filled brown paper bags with candy necklaces, red waxed lips, waxed buckteeth, chocolate Ice Cubes, and long scrolls of white paper punctuated with rows and rows of pastel colored candy dots. (No doubt what we earned helped to pay the dentist bill, too...).
I could write a book about the paper route, but the single story that comes to mind this morning involves my hands. On one particularly cold winter afternoon Susan and I were about halfway through the route, and it was collection day. Some of our customers left envelopes with their change tacked to their doors. Most folks left fifty cents and we'd get to keep the eight cent tip, whoo hoo! At Christmas time some pulled out all the stops and left us a dollar. Some couldn't afford to tip, and we'd get exactly forty-two cents. If there was no envelope waiting for us, we had to ring the bell, or knock on the door, and ask for the money. So this one afternoon I rang the doorbell of the house where a pretty girl lived. I didn't know her name, but I'd seen her at school. She was a grade ahead of me, and had long shiny auburn banana curls, and a wardrobe of puffy lace dresses (I had a no nonsense pixie cut that made me look like a boy) and when I rang the bell, she came to the door, curls bouncing, pink mouth munching busily on an Oreo. I was blasted with a poof of sweet smelling warm air as she released the vacuum seal of the storm door, and could see the color TV set behind her, tuned to cartoons. Her hand brushed mine as she placed the two quarters in my cold palm, and it felt almost hot, and looked as soft and white as a marshmallow. Then she closed the door with a bang, and I stood on the step in the blue twilight, thinking about the difference between our hands, and wondering with envy, Wow, what would it be like to be her? Hair all in curls? Laying around after school in the warm house eating cookies and watching TV until suppertime??
I have since learned to love and accept my little peasant hands. They are capable of many wonderful things. (Thankyou, hands. I kiss you now with a flourish and a humble bow. xxx)

11 comments:

artslice said...

What a great story! Love the green ring. My hands are my friends... but, they're dry (don't want to get oil on my fancy french papers I'm always handling) and my nails are so short. (Can't play the piano with long ones... or carve into wood or get all the sticky ink and paint out from under them when trying to clean up :)

Happy Sunday Martha!

Katie said...

My dad has always said that I have Auntie Martha's feet. I look at your hands and they look familiar to me. Dry, cracked and rough from not artwork, but the washing of them at least 50 times a day dealing with snotty noses, wiping bottoms and poopy diapers, which I wash out because I'm trying to do justice to our Earth and use cloth. I'm glad to say though that I have hands and feet like yours Auntie Mart. I come from a strong line of women and I'm very proud of that! Love, Love!

Susan Beauchemin said...

Our hands were so young, delivering those newspapers! folding and stacking the papers, knocking on doors, pulling the wagon--a rounded black metal handle, wetting a facecloth, we'd take with us on hot days in every sprinkler we'd come to, on cold days we wore clumsy mittens that made the job of delivering the paper that much harder to do.
My fingers are long, my hands are dry and looking older than they should. I broke the little finger on my left hand long ago playing baseball with the neighborhood kids--still looks deformed. My hands are strong though--I work them hard.

Susan Beauchemin said...

Oh--I have a water hand! (Just clicked on your link) Oblong palm with long fingers. Makes sense, even though I'm an earth sign, my rising sign is a water sign.

Martha Miller said...

Hi Brenda

I've seen pictures of your hands in a few of your posts, and they are beautiful! Ditto about the dry skin and short nails! I can't stand it if my nails get even a little bit long - I don't know how people DO things with long nails!

Martha Miller said...

Hi Katie!

You must have those Fred Flintstone feet! :*) Good for you for using cloth diapers! I did that with all of my kids except when Alec came a long I caved and occasionally used pampers. I guess for kid #5 that's not too terrible! Yes, you (and I)do come from a long line of strong women! LOVE LOVE to you, too! (I will be seeing your mom this week in RI!)

Martha Miller said...

Hey, Sue

Yup - those clumsy mittens, and those hats knitted by the mental patients at Howard!!!!!! You certainly do have water hands, so loooong! Mine are more like Mom's I think.
P.S.
(Oh, look through the old lace curtain: here comes ancient Mr. Oches, emerging from the dark depths of his house, moving ever so slooooowly, painfully inching his way toward the front door with his cane in one hand, and his 42 cents in the other...)

Elizabeth Seaver said...

Wow, Martha. That should be published (wait, it already is!) What a slice of life. Gives us readers lots to think about.

I relate to those dry-from-cold-and-too-much-in-dirty-paint-water cracked digits. Hands definitely say volumes and are blessed things! Thanks for reminding us.

Dean Grey said...

You got some talented hands, Martha!

Anyone can see that!

Thanks for sharing your childhood story with us! I think it's sweet that you and Sue used to help earn your way even as kids. No shame in that at all.

-Dean

Martha Miller said...

Hi Elizabeth!

Thankyou! We are indeed very lucky to have these hands of ours, manicured or not! :*)

Martha Miller said...

Hi Dean!

What type of hands do you have??