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A Love Letter to my Hands

Updated on March 20, 2015
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Erin has been a massage therapist since 2010, when she graduated from Cortiva Institute in Chicago. She currently lives in Illinois.


Dear Hands,

In the water of our mother’s womb, we met. I was blind then, but I found you, and took the stubby thumbs of you into my mouth. After we were born, the tiny fingers of you curled tightly around the thick forefingers of our parents when they stroked the palms of you, and gently kissed the soft backs of you, and the tiny, rosy nails of you.

Water hands. Rectangular palms. Long, slender fingers. The hands of artists. Of old souls, sensitive, creative, rich in emotion. Changeable. Impressionable. Receptive. Compassionate. A still water surface hides anxiety beneath.

As we grew, my eyes, my nose, my mouth, my ears, and you—my hands—made order of the chaos that was my world. You made the strange into the familiar. Touching. Stroking. Patting. Picking up and turning. Soon, you would take on new life.

Graceful hands. A dancer’s hands. I learned to hold the long, slender water fingers of you just so. In dance class, they gave each finger of you a name. Five ballerinas extending from rectangular water palms. From Daddy Ballerina on the thumb to Baby Ballerina on the little finger, with Mommy, Skinny, and Princess Ballerina in between. Daddy Ballerina stood in gentle opposition. Mommy, Princess, and Baby curved gently towards Daddy, while Skinny stood extended, reaching away from the others. Reaching for the music, the dance.

I was unkind to you in middle school, I fear. All the insecurities of my age crawled within me, and I took them out on you. I chewed the nails of you, the cuticles, and hangnails. I peeled the nails of you until they were ragged and shredded to the beds of them, until there were no nails left to scratch my itches or to scratch behind the ears of my darling cats. But do not think I did not see your pain. It was a trial, but I trained myself to leave be the nails of you, and to let them grow strong.

The nails of you were beautiful in high school, in the days when I lost myself in my writing. Notebooks purchased for class were soon filled page after page with stories. French class, biology, algebra, it mattered not to me where I was or what I was supposed to be doing. Words poured from the sharp pencil clutched in the right of you, while the left of you held down the page. Although the right of you was dominant, I wrote like a lefty, someone would later tell me, with my arm curved around the page to hide the stories I illicitly wrote during class. The right of you was always smeared with graphite. It shadowed the ulnar side of you, from the wrist, to Baby Ballerina’s tip. And poor Right Princess Ballerina still possesses a hard bump on the most distal joint from where the pencil pressed into her.

Now, you are the hands of a healer. The nails of you are short and bare, carefully manicured every week. Every night I scrub you soft with Dead Sea salt, and in the morning, I work lotion into you to keep you moist. I stretch the muscles in the thumbs of you, in the forearms, and the wrists of you, and I soak you in ice when you ache. In return, you provide me with a livelihood. You press gently into the tired tissue on the table, having learned to read it, to speak to it, to feel each muscle fiber and gently release the trigger points to ease their suffering.

My hands, my friends, you are so very loved. I thank you for everything you have done for me. Everything we have been through together. Here’s to you, my dear hands, and to the lifetime we will spend together.


The Heart of You


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