What’s struck me most this week (well, one of the things) is the variety of circumstances of hands I’ve experienced (bear with me…)
I’m not admitting an addiction (certainly not one I want to get over) to the internet, and a certain familiarity with the laptop which elicits giggles at my touch-typing from a certain WonderAunty, but I do spend a lot of time with the old gal (the Laptop, not WonderAunty). She’s looking a bit bashed around, and some of the rhinestones I stuck on her have come off (and not been replaced, because hey – ain’t nobody got time for that!) but her weight and warmth have become comfortable friends.
Even the annoying whizzing of her fan I can stand. But her keys I adore. They let me connect, create, converse and entertain. In the same way that reading no longer requires a concerted effort to translate the markings into meanings, my hands have become sufficiently accustomed to this machine that the reverse is also becoming true – meanings becoming markings with nary a thought process left in the pressing.
Agreed, after a particularly long night, the fingers might ache a little with fatigue, but by and large, I can extend my mind, through my fingertips and onto the page for hours at a time. My hands have become very used to these actions, and as such, have become sadly unused to others.
This week in the ‘dark’ with the dodgy WiFi and the relentless in-yer-face-ness of family has redressed some of that balance – let me show you how:
1. Caring hands – Neff went back and forth between his and Niece’s bed several times the first night, to bring her each and every one of his teddies, as she was unsettled and sad. He climbed in with her and hugged her, telling her “Cuddle me, cuddle me – I’ll keep you safe”. He wrapped himself around her with brotherly love and soothed her. Then he held my hand tightly as we lay, all sandwiched together in one bed, as she fell asleep in between us, and slowly, his breathing grew slower and deeper as he joined her in dreamland.
2. Providing hands – there cannot be enough of these! Even with three adults in the house, the requests still flow to each of us for food, drink, entertainment, engagement, toys, stories, participation, activity, outings, help, and guidance. Yes it can be draining, but it’s also quite wonderful to realise just how reliant these little people are on us, and how much we can ensure their safety, comfort and wellbeing through our actions, and watch them grow.
3. Salty hands – my experience of ‘holiday’ has always been intertwined with the sea in some way or another, and being near the beach relaxes me in a way I don’t find elsewhere. Once I see the sun on those waves and hear the rhythms of the shoreline, my heart beats at a different pace, and I leave everything else behind me. I had the absolute delight of taking Neff rock-pooling while Niece had a nap, and his small (yet so grown-up), wet, salty hand thrust firmly and repeatedly into mine as we navigated through sandy pools, stony pools, into the sea itself, through seaweed, into (and out of – rapidly!) a patch of unexpected ‘sink-mud’, was a delight to hold, to share his experience and (as a veteran rock-pooler) show him the ropes.
4. Gentle hands – I was delighted to see just how tender my sweet Neff can be. I caught tiny fish in my cupped hands and he fetched a bucket of water to receive them. When I caught shrimp, I transferred them to his cupped hands and he softly lowered them in. When we saw tiny, baby crabs walking around, he crouched and scooped them very gently, taking care not to crush them, and added them to our catch. He asked what they liked to eat, and upon hearing my suggestion of seaweed, fetched a small rock coated in the stuff and placed it into the bucket to look after them. He added a handful of sand for good measure “So they can hide”. He thought carefully about the welfare of these tiny creatures and used his hands to tend to them, all of his own initiative. I am a proud Aunty to this little chap.
5. Filthy hands – we stopped for a snack on the beach, and Niece was too involved in using her hands to scoop great piles of sand either into or out of heaps (I couldn’t keep track – she may have been doing both. Simultaneously) and we realised we had no way to clean her off. She stoically accepted that she’d have to forgo her favourite baby sausages, and continued scooping the sand (burying her feet, by then). Later, when she mentioned being hungry, I called her over and fed her, popping the morsels one by one into her grinning mouth as she kept her hands very purposefully Far Away From The Food. (She cleaned up just fine once we got back to our ‘Holiday Home’ but I think she brought half the beach back in her shoes).
6. Man hands – to hold on an evening walk to the locallest beach, as we strolled and chatted, developing that deep sense-memory I’m aiming to recall in a million ways when we’re little and old and gnarly. Reaching for me to help hold things as I grabbed my camera to snap away at a sunset we’d not realised was behind us. Scooping valiantly to try to rescue some small, silver shards of fish which had swum the wrong way into the surf and become beached. Holding me tight about my waist, balancing me as I stumbled and lost my footing in the dark, trying to wash my sandy feet and re-instate socks and shoes for the walk home. Poised as tickling claws ready to chase and catch a shrieking Niece and Neff and wrestle them to the ground, laughing. Deftly dealing cards to teach them a new game. Strongly swinging one child onto his shoulders and balancing him there while scooping the other, giggling into his arms to bring them in from the garden. Helping out, joining in, caring and wonderful, with that gold symbol of belonging and promise on the fourth finger – my absolute favourite hands after my own.
7. Tired hands – flung lightly around my neck, body slumped heavily against mine, heart slow, breath puffing gently on my neck as Niece’s eyes scrunch to remain shut while I remove her from the car, then relax as her head lolls comfortably on my shoulder, barely registering as I find a space to sit in the sun and watch fountains and ducks as she slumbers. Her skin smells of sweetness and suncream and her flyaway hair tickles me as a breeze wafts it astray; she sleeps so deeply that even my insistence on covering every reachable part of her face with kisses doesn’t disturb her. Later these little hands suddenly contract, stretch and reach for me, pushing her upright as she looks around, confused, then cling as I explain that it’s okay – we’ve arrived.
8. Excited hands – grabbing and waving a flag for their chosen knights at the jousting, Niece and Neff’s movements (sometimes so concentrated and precise) became large, exuberant and used as blunt instruments, grabbing at tufts of grass to pull themselves further uphill to get a better view; waving their little flags until the cloth fell off; reached high in excitement as their knight rode against his opponent, grabbing for a swift drink of water between intense focus on the rounds of the joust, and later, stretched wide in exhilaration as they leaped and jumped down the hill after the match was finished, ready to go and see the knights close up as they prepared to leave.
|Noble and kind, just as a knight should be – this gentleman posed for a pic with Niece and Neff, and only later did I realise he was Neff’s Champion – The Blue Knight|
9. Pointing hands – these belonging to other people, alerting me to things I almost missed – tiny, silver fish landing themselves in the sand; a helicopter landing on top of a lighthouse; the Red Arrows air team flying past in formation; a Buddleia bush covered in Red Admiral butterflies; a Eurasian Eagle Owl ‘concealed’ in a bush at toddler height at the wildlife park; ‘lucky stones’ with holes through them; ‘magic stones’ with crystals in their middles; the moon, huge, multi-hued and as pale as a bubble hanging over the beach as the evening drew in.
10. Family hands – 3 sets in the older generation; 3 sets in mine; 2 in the next one down – all linked by the warmth of relationship as strongly and irrevocably as the DNA we share.
A Fly on our (Chicken Coop) Wall, Considerings, Finding Ninee, I can say mama, I Want Backsies, Steps into Parenthood, Thankful Me, The Wakefield Doctrine