Wednesday, January 16, 2013

by hand

In my first pregnancy, I had to have my wedding rings cut off.  This time, I pulled them off in the first trimester, put them in a box, closed them in a drawer.  I miss fidgeting them, miss looking down to see the squareness of the diamond, be reminded of that hot day in New York City when he asked me, going to the Strand afterwards with our ear ridges bubbling from sunburn.

I was so distressed at the cutting, I got sick.  And then I wrote a poem about it, learned about the median nerve, about connecting the heart to the hand by a thread.

I had carpal tunnel in both wrists through most of my first pregnancy, possibly exacerbated by exuberant knitting, or note-taking in graduate school.  This time, my hands have quieted until recently, when nesting has led to making, and an internal poetry-push has led to a nighttime routine:  Maya is asleep with her father in bed, and I try to:  watch a recorded documentary, usually something scientific, or maybe about the life of someone compelling or historically interesting; read one book of poetry and take notes on the lines I love the most, maybe add notes about writing ideas; write a poem, if I can.  It doesn't always happen.  Some nights, I fall asleep before I can creep back downstairs.  Some nights, I just want to read prose.  Some nights, I am too frustrated to do anything useful.  My hands tingle and have grown like breakfast sausage links.  I wake up in the morning, and the middle finger of my right hand has gone completely numb, the surrounding fingers tingle-following.  Maya zips and unzips the velcro on my braces, and sometimes, when I take them off to let my skin breathe, she'll slip them onto her hands.  Mama, I wear braces! Owie, han, han!

My daughter obsesses over her fingers.  A few months ago, she smashed two dog bones together, which would have struck slivers of bone, how hard was the crashing, but instead, it put two divots in her pointer finger.  It was the most blood I'd seen from her, those gashes, and she accepted the med-cin and ban-ay with bravery.  But she'd pull it all off and pick away, the healing process taking so much longer than it needed to.  She examines her hands still, finger by finger, pointing out to the irregularities, the hang-nails and such.  She's amazingly dextrous, always has been, and I'm looking to summer, wondering how she'll be in the garden, if she'll be gentle with the beetles and worms she's so fascinated by.

My hands aren't terribly pretty.  I don't maintain my nails; I let them grow haphazardly.  My cuticles get torn.  Even on my wedding day, I didn't have a manicure.  I forgot to even consider clear nail polish.  My friend Kelly has had a pedicure before the births of each of her sons.  Perhaps when my first full-length gets accepted, I'll have my hands scrubbed.  They're messy hands, that is certain.

But these are the hands that fold seedlings into the earth, that have guided breast to babe, that have folded bread dough, that guide fabric through needle's pounding stitches, have toughened beneath the strings of a violin, have painted sparkling sealant on the ornaments my daughter made for the holidays.  They've held onto a two-year-old wiggling toddler, and tonight, they carried said toddler and diabetic cat, in one strong arm, the other hand free for doors, into the veterinary clinic, where my hands learned the steps for applying insulin needles to the triangle between wedges of cat's shoulder blades.  They've turned pages, have gotten paper cut while shelving books for six years, part time, at a bookstore.  They've been permitted to massage lotion into my daughter's skin as winter dries it out, have applied medicinal cream to her, to my husband, to myself.  They've lingered in the feather-light blonde hair my daughter is finally growing, have held scissors to cut my husband's hair as we stood on the summer porch in our brief Winona apartment.  They've touched skin, given pleasure, have remained faithful, have touched lips before first kiss.  They've worried.  They've brought cigarettes to my lips, then trembled when I quit.  Trembled when I waited to defend my thesis, trembled while I waited to say I do, trembled while I brought myself out of panic attacks and faced anxiety disorders. 

We know our hands so well, our mother's hands.  Her hands have made their way into my poems:  I've recognized the veins, the long-slenderness, the way they click through knitting patterns with ease, the tough push of needle without thimble, the certainty of margin-marking while grading.

I read so much about how technology is changing our relationship to the world, and it's true.  I will admit to reading a tablet while rocking Maya to sleep at night.  I'm reading War and Peace right now, and its paper twin sits heavy on a bookshelf.  I can heft that glowing reader while shifting her from one numb arm to another without worry of thonking her on the head.  But I stick to paper, mostly.  My house is a firetrap.

And emails.  And letters.  Until I had Maya, I wrote daily letters to my widowed grandmother and my best friend.  Now, I write when I can, which isn't often enough. 

I read this article today:  4 benefits of writing by hand.  It's just a little thing, a blip on our reading day, but I thought so vehemently about how pleased I am at the callouses I developed at a very young age.  As I've brought out from the archives, Anne Frank was an awfully formidable influence on my writing-self.  I kept a diary; I named her Kitty.  This was a gift my mother gave me.  And once I started, my peculiar way of holding a pencil developed that bubble on my ring finger and my thumb, a smoother, more subtle bump.  They haven't faded.  I have a way of touching them with my forefinger, just as I'd worry those wedding rings, to remind me of something:  that I write.  And these are the two symbolic representations of what's most critical in my life:  my family and interaction with words.  When the world tightens, it's all I need (though, a little travel, even if it's a simple walk in the local woods, is awfully important too).

And this sausage-body, by the way, is due to expel a human being in exactly one month.  I hope the tadpole wants to come early, as much as I want him to, because my organs are wedged under my chin these days, but I need to remember too, to relish these kicks.  He might be the last one.  I don't think I could survive a third pregnancy, I'm so very bad at it.  It's strange what the body can tolerate though, what the body can go through.  And I think a little about the other night, how I could feel his individual fingers running along the right side of my uterus as I lay on my side, how it tickled, how very surreal that was. 


Willow said...

I haven't visited either of your blogs in a while, and it's so nice to be back!

Your description of hands stands out to me. As I read about your mother's hands, I was seeing my own mother's hands.

That nighttime routine sounds so nice. Our routines have been interrupted by jet lag and international travel in the last month, and I'm thinking about making new ones as I settle into being back home.

Emily Brisse said...

Beautiful, Molly. What a gush of yeses and nods this brought forth in me. Wishing you more of the right words in the days ahead!