Kind Hands - Local Wolves


I’m no longer crying in my bedroom, pillow under my legs, with the door open to let the hall light in. When I used to stand next to my sleeping parents and whisper into the dark that my legs ached, they would both stir, and one would come find me, their palm on the back of my small neck. Usually, it was my mother. We would walk down the hall quietly back to my room, where we climbed into my bed together. She would stuff a pillow under my legs to lessen the growing pains. My head rested against her shoulder, and slowly the pains behind my knees would subside, and I would wake to an empty bed and the sound of the TV.

As I made my way into the morning light, legs feeling warm and healed, she would smile at me and ask if I felt taller. The joke always made us laugh. That was how my childhood was. When my legs hurt in the middle of the night, my parents would absorb the pain into a pillow. On nights when my parents had friends over, my mother would let my sister and me sleep in her bed. I always chose to sleep on the right side, my mother’s side. The pillow smelled like her hair, and I remember looking at her bedside table. There was a clear plastic tissue box, hand cream, a leather bookmark that was never in a book, and a small white jewelry dish. As I rested my cheek against her pillow case with my sister sleeping beside me, I felt the same way I did when she erased the pain in my legs. In the dark, I could only see the outlines of her things, but I knew what they were. She kept her bedside table the same for my whole childhood. That was something that I have always loved about my mother – her consistent familiarity.

When I started school, I always had an afternoon nap on our sofa in the living room. It was underneath a large bay window on the front of the house. My small body would be heavy and worn from the day, and when I got home, I would crawl onto the soft cushions and sleep. My brother would play up in his room, and my sister, who was just a baby, bounced on my mother’s hip. I fell asleep to their noises and movements, waking up to my mother’s gentle hand on my shoulder.

Her hands are one of the most beautiful things about her. Growing up, I always hoped that mine would someday look like hers. She has the hands of a pianist. The hands of a writer. The hands of a loving mother. Her fingernails were never painted, and the soft pink color reminded me of the inside of a seashell. Her fingers themselves are long and narrow, their movements graceful and kind. When she painted my sister’s and I’s nails which looked like tiny pink seeds, I asked why she never did her own. As she concentrated and delicately moved the brush over our nails, she said that it wouldn’t last. “Too many dishes to wash,” she would say with my palm in hers. I don’t know why I remember that. Why of all the things she said to me, I remember that she wouldn’t paint her nails because washing the dishes would take the color off. With clean nails and a gold band on her ring finger, my mother’s hands stand out as a significant part of my childhood. From brushing my hair to opening a jar for me. From folding my clothes or running a bath to picking up my toys and holding my hand in the grocery store. I have never thought of one having kind hands, but when I looked at my mother’s hands or held them or felt them on my back as she lay beside me, the first word I would use to describe them was kind.

I want to remember my childhood for its tender moments, from the middle of the night aches and pains to the smell of my mother’s pillow to having my nails painted in the bathroom. Now, as I wake up with new kinds of growing pains, I wish they could simply be healed by putting a pillow under my legs or taking a nap on the sofa. The growing pains are not ones that loving hands can massage out. I worry that they will sit in my chest and push against my ribs every time I see a mother and daughter, hand in hand, in a world where the gentleness of your mother’s hands leads you to believe that there is nowhere safer, nowhere kinder, than the center of her palm.

Words: Lucy Harwood

Photos: Cottonbro

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