mama's hands

8:55 AM

my paternal grandmother with five of her six children (my papa is second from the right)

Ever since I can remember I was enthralled with what I deemed "mummy hands." They were the hands of women who were mothers and their hands were often weathered and covered in spots but more than anything they always looked strong and elegant all at the same time. Over the years I watched these hands hand wash clothes, pick up babies and kids who wanted to still be babies, chop onions with ease that would put the best chef to shame, lovingly turn over the pages of worn out books and braid hair into all sorts of beautiful patterns. These women were beautiful to me because of what they represented - maternal love and care.
I don't ever remember thinking about women's bodies negatively, probably until I was in college, I realize now what a blessing that was. I used to idealize older women as they always seemed so graceful and wise. Being a scrawny adolescent myself I believed there was nothing more beautiful than a woman with strong arms, voluptuous hips and legs that mean business. My paternal grandmother was definitely built this way as were most of the women I grew up around. In fact both of my grandmothers raised six children, tended to gardens (to put it mildly, in reality they were more like farms) year round, hand washed the laundry and dishes of eight people and cooked three meals a day. These women were not waifs. When I look at photos of them at my age I see their meaty arms that carried sacks of potatoes and often two kids at once. I see the hips that birthed six children and the legs that carried them everywhere they went. By their late thirties their faces were lined and showed the wear and tear of their lifestyle but more than anything their faces showed the fierce love they had for their family. Every line could be traced back to a day, a specific child.
And now I think about myself, about the way I view my body. I think about the way I berate myself for not being thinner, not having that dastardly "thigh gap" or more toned arms. In essence I think about all the things that I think are so wrong and forget everything else. Forget about the way I've transported this now not-so-tiny human for over a year now from the moment she wakes up to the moment she falls asleep. The way I crawl around the house daily collecting tiny toys and pieces of food. The way I crouch over the tub nightly as I soap up her hair. The way I rarely sit down these days, if only to work. The way I tilt my right shoulder to the ground as I walk lap after lap around the living room with a little human so eager to walk. No, I rarely think about these things. I rarely give my body credit for all it does all day long. Instead I criticize it and tell it I wish I was wearing someone else's skin.
As my daughter grows older I realize just how badly I need to stop this. I never want my daughter to confuse aesthetics with strength. I never want her to look at women and see all the rolls, cellulite and lines as something to be ashamed of, as some sort of moral lacking on their part. Because ultimately neither my grandmothers, nor my mother, nor most of the women in my life would ever be deemed worthy of a magazine cover but in my humble opinion they are so worthy of so much more, at least a monument. And I know that in the end my children will never remember how I looked but they sure will remember how much I loved them.

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