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Remembering My Mother's Hands

Updated on January 27, 2016
Sallie Mullinger profile image

Sallie is a retired mother and grandmother who has written short stories for most of her life. Her stories are from her heart to yours.

Sometimes the simplest things draw us back and remind us of how much we were loved

So I had my regular bi-weekly nail appointment yesterday. Nothing too unusual about that. Several weeks ago, I decided to finally go without artificial nails and just take good care of my own nails and have a regular manicure every 2 weeks. Tammy, my nail tech, has been after me for a year or more to do this but I just wasnt ready to make the break from fake nails.

I love my real, own nails! And they're looking good because of Tammy's coaching on what I should do at home to help them along as they get used to being “naked”.

So today, I asked her to do a French manicure on my nails. I like French manicures because it always looks clean and it goes with everything.

When she was finished, I admired my nails and the great job she had done. As I was looking down at them, it seemed as though they looked familiar. I couldn't quite figure out why or what and then it dawned on me.

I was looking down at my own hands, and I was seeing my mother's hands and nails. She was always very particular about her nails. She didn't have manicures, that I know of at least. But it wasn't unusual to see her sitting watching TV in the evenings, with an emery board in her hand. Her nails were always well kept. I remember, as a young girl, envying my mother's nails because while they weren't long, they had beautiful white tips and they were shiny.

I always bit my nails and try as I might, I couldn't stop. So I think I was doubly impressed with my mother's fingernails.

When I grew up and got engaged, I decided to stop biting my nails and I did and I had pretty nails for the pretty hands photograph everyone had. But it wasnt long after that, I started chewing on them again.

It wasn't until much later that I discovered fake nails in the form of Lee Press On Nails. I am sure that will ring a bell with many of you. And even later still, I decided to have fake nails done professionally and thus began my “bete noir” with my hands and nails.

So you can see why finally, at this late date in my life, I am excited to have my own, REAL nails.

So yesterday, as I was admiring my nails and thinking about how much my hands reminded me of my Mom's, I also remembered something else. I could feel tears starting to well and that lump in my throat that I knew meant I was going to cry, so I swallowed hard and took a breath and told Tammy why remembering my Mom's hands meant so much today.

January 28, 2007 she died. So today is the ninth anniversary of her death.

I had her admitted to the same hospital where I was born in Cincinnati..oddly I never really thought much about that until just now. I worked that day but I drove down to Cincy to see her that night. It was a Monday. By Sunday, she would be gone.

She was in and out of lucidity. Talking about my Dad as though he were right there even though he had died in 1964.

I decided to go along with whatever she said and so we talked about my Dad and how he would be glad to see me when he came back from wherever she thought he had gone.

I'm remembering feeling very much that night as though she was probably dying. Funny how when its going to happen, we just know it.

I had the urge to be close to her. Physically close. We've all seen movies or TV shows where someone is close to death and a loved one climbs into the hospital bed with the dying person. I didnt do that, but I pulled my chair as close to her as I could and I took her hand in mine. I looked down at her nails and noticed that the cuticles were ragged and her nails were chipped and uneven and just so very unlike my mother's nails. I dont think I realized fully just how far gone my mother really was, until I saw her nails and felt her rough, dry hands.

I stroked her hands and told her that when she got out of the hospital I would take her to get a manicure. She smiled and told me that we both knew she wouldn't be getting out of the hospital and then she took my hands in hers.

She looked at me and said..”Sallie Ann, you have the softest hands”.

Not a big deal, right? But unless you were raised by a mother who never complimented you about anything, you wouldn't understand what that small comment meant to me. It was the surest sign that she knew she was leaving me and this was her way of telling me that she loved me and was sorry for never letting me know better than she had.

So when I looked at my own hands yesterday and remembered her hands in mine and mine in hers that day in January nine years ago, I broke down and cried.

Thanks Mom for giving me the gift of soft hands and beautiful nails and for finally letting me know that you loved me.


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