(Previously published on my other blog.)
I had pretty hands. Family and friends commented often. "You have such pretty hands. You could be a hand model," they'd say. Even perfect strangers noticed. I was proud of my hands. On a young lady with frizzy hair, an imperfect complexion and veins that showed under my eyes, my hands were my bright, shining bit of vanity.
The skin on my hands was smooth and even, my fingers long and slender. The nails were healthy and strong. I never had a professional manicure, but I kept my nails polished and filed and pretty. I remember finding the buffing file from Cover Girl and buffing them until they were smooth and shiny. I would take special care to rub my hand lotion into the nails and cuticles, to help keep them healthy.
Then real life happened, and no matter how I tried to keep them soft and pretty, life took a toll. The fall from potential hand model to beaten and battered hands happened gradually. I traded in the gentle office job for four children. The polished nails were sacrificed for the art of making wedding cakes. Of necessity, my nails became shorter and unpolished. No matter how many times a day, I slathered my hands with lotions and creams, hot water, household cleaners and AGE, took their toll.
Then came the stage of my life I'll refer to as "the clumsy stage." During this few years, I fell down stairs, tripped over hoses, and walked into things. My lack of coordination took on a life of its own. My hands suffered during this time, as well. A couple of burns and lacerations left permanent scars. The skin that was smooth and even is now looking weathered and older. My fingernails are still clean, but rarely even and not always strong.
Do I hate my hands now? I'm no longer proud of their appearance, but I'm proud of what they're capable of doing. They create clean clothes and dishes out of dirty ones. They take basic pantry items and make meals that nourish my family. They've created beautiful wedding cakes, sewn lovely clothes, curled my daughters' hair, straightened my daughters' hair, clapped at my sons' football and basketball games, held my husband's hand, held my children's hands, wiped tears away, and countless other things.
They're no longer beautiful to look at, but I hope that when I die, they will have spent a lifetime doing beautiful things. I hope I can remember, when it comes to my hands, that beauty truly is only skin (and nail) deep, but that the good deeds my hands have done will make them "model" hands in the ways that really matter.