Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Restless Hand Syndrome

It runs in our family. Restless Hand Syndrome. All during the time I was growing up, I don't think there was ever a time when my mother's hands weren't moving. Cooking, cleaning, grooming. Knitting, sewing, crocheting. They weren't much good at gardening, but when I think of my mother's hands, they are always a blur of activity.

My grandmother, too, had Restless Hand Syndrome. After a full day of cooking with firewood, laundry with scrub boards, scrounging for food during the war and post-war years, managing her husband's business, heating the nightly bathwater (again with firewood), bathing the little ones and putting everyone to sleep, she'd still sit in the candlelight, mending tattered kimono for the nth time (during the lean years) and making bean-filled juggling balls with old kimono material (during the fat years.)

My own hands are a small cyclone of movement, too. I doodle my pencil to a nub -- little squares and circles -- during phone calls and am happiest when my fingers are flying in a flurry of activity. People talk about smoking being an oral fixation. I think I smoked for so many years just to give my fingers something to do. Spending the last few weeks with my restless handed mother, I've gotten into crochet again, first, making a cute linen skullcap and then using the leftover yarn to crochet a tiny purse during the long flight across the Pacific. It kept me from fidgeting endlessly in my seat and now I have a nice little bag for my loose change, loose bills, rubber bands, memos, etc.

Maybe it's all that activity. We never had soft-looking, delicate, feminine hands. Our hands are all gaunt and bony. I actually like that I have the same working man hands that my mother and grandmother have/had, but when a magazine I used to write for asked me to be their "hand model" for their "hands tell us so much about a person" series, I had to decline. (I got my mother to hold her hands still long enough to get this rare shot!)

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