Linda Daniels is my neighbour in Lynedoch EcoVillage. As part of her Aura fellowship we did a writing course together where she showed me what it means to capture something as simple as skin. An exquisite complexity, no fanfare, no fuss. She finds the sheer simplicity of what is, and then there it is on a page.
Writer, journalist, podcaster
My mother's hands
Grief opens the door
To a corridor without windows
A chamber of light opens up
There is children’s laughter inside
But the door that first opened, is now fast closing
Indigo vines bloom through cracks of the crumbling walls
This is a strange house beckoning inside of me
My Mother's hands built me
My Mother's hands were soft and shiny, polished with Dawn lotion to a healthy dark brown sheen. The fingernail of her ring finger had at one time become infected and our opposite neighbour, who was a nurse, drained and cleaned the infection for my mother. After that, the fingernail turned an earthy colour and stayed that way.
My Mother washed dishes without kitchen gloves. Her hands gutted fresh fish on our kitchen table on which she had spread newspaper to catch the inedible parts. She saved the fish heads for soup. On the occasional Sunday afternoon when she felt like braaied meat my Mother’s hands would pack bricks into a small square tower in the yard and place an iron grill on top.
She could tickle me with one finger.
When I was six years old, I was still not too heavy for her to pick me up and throw me in the air and catch me only to launch me in the air again, where I was convinced that if I stretched at the right moment, I could touch the ceiling.
She would count out the plastic tokens we used to pay ‘milkie’ the milkman with and stack them into little even piles on the kitchen table after school and teach me sums.
My hands are rough to touch
My own hands are rough and discoloured. People have told me that they look really old. I met a woman at a party once and after shaking my hand when we met, she whispered into my ear that I should use hand lotion to soften my hands.
I was five years old when my skin erupted into eczema and many years of applying cortisone to contain the flare ups has thinned out my skin.
I used to sit on my hands, push them deep into pockets and hold them behind my back. I don’t wear nail polish and the only jewelry I once wore was my wedding band.
Eczema - my skin - reacts to my emotional landscape. I now know to scan my environment for shifts that make it hard for me to open my hands from the balled-up fists of pain. I am learning that my hands which build words from a laptop keyboard for a living also help me to form the ‘other – inside of me – words’.
The connection between my flare ups and my emotional state was not obvious to me. It was only when a friend shared a story of a family member’s young child who suffered from eczema and was advised to seek psychological support in addition to topical treatment. Our local pharmacist and Red Cross Children’s hospital provided excellent care and service when my hands hurt as a child, but they did not provide psychological support. When you cannot imagine a thing even in your dreams then how is it an option to ask for it.
My Mothers hands were thin and slender and a few years near the end of her life, her hands began to shake.
I don’t want to write this part. Grief’s door doesn’t shut all the way closed. There is no key that can lock it up. Instead I will write about how she loved me with her hands.
I don’t remember the accident. I was told about it. My mother had a scar on the inside of her arm. This is the place where the bone pierced her skin. It happened when she and I were walking to the corner shop. She was holding my hand when we crossed the main road. A motorcyclist drove into us, and she pulled me under her body shielding me from the impact and this is how she broke her arm.
Small hand in mine
I loved it when my children were babies and their hands would close in a grasp when I placed my finger in their tiny palms.
They are older children now. When we cross busy streets or when we walk together, I instinctively grab their hands as my Mother used to with mine.
Sometimes they choose to drop their hands to their sides and walk by themselves, next to me.
Aura Fellow, Bertha Scholar, Rhizome Fellowship 2022, https://lindadaniels.org/about-me/