I was in design school with only an hour for lunch. Veronica and I shared classes and we were starving. We ran down the street to a crowded student-filled café.
While sitting across from her, I watched her carefully. I was always in awe of her grace and elegance. Raven hair curled down to her shoulders. Perfectly fit designer clothes hugged her slim body that was also perfect. Her manicured hands gestured gracefully and her posture was, of course, impeccable. If there was anyone that ever looked the part of an interior designer it was Veronica. She was beautiful.
As I was thinking these things, she looked at my hands and smiled.
“You are an old soul,” she said as she studied my hands.
“Why do you say that?” I asked, puzzled.
“Your hands look like an old woman owns them,” she stated with certainty as she casually took a bite of food.
I took my hands off the table and put them in my lap. I wanted to hide them as fast as I could.
“No, no, don’t hide them! It wasn’t meant to hurt your feelings. I was trying to say that your hands show you are an old soul who has innate wisdom and knowledge. You should be proud of your hands,” she explained, still with a twinkle in her perfect eyes.
I was 21, with wispy blond hair pulled into pigtails, homemade clothes, a Tennessee accent – and old hands. I was the opposite of all that she was and about the last person that you would expect to be in a design school filled with designer-looking people.
Confidence wasn’t my strong suit back then. I never thought of myself as attractive or elegant and now I had old hands! Who cares if you have wisdom or knowledge when your hands are all anyone is going to see!
The years would pass, and one evening in my late 40s I was on my first date with a very refined man who I admired. My hair was no longer in pigtails, my jeans came from a department store, and I was in the middle of a career in design.
We were having a nice dinner when I noticed he was looking at my hands. My first thought: I knew I should have worn my mother’s old white gloves.
A smile came across his face. “I love your hands!”
Once again, they immediately went into my lap. “Why?”
“I see character, hard work, and history in those tiny hands,” he said gently, as he reached out to take one into his.
I didn’t date him long, but I will never forget that moment. My hands were never the same.
These old hands were inherited from a fine group of folks that have the same tiny, freckled friends that I have.
My Uncle Paul and I used to laugh that ours were so similar. He was a skilled surgeon that could do intricate work because of his small hands long before lasers and robotic instruments.
Uncle Paul, Dad, and I inherited these hands from my Granny Rose and R. E. Walker. I remember that I always hoped my hands would not look like my Granny’s, but they do.
Rose raised her four children with those hands by herself. Her husband R.E. had died before the smallest was five. And, she was the only one of the bunch that could play a piano and organ efficiently which, in itself, was an anomaly.
Now, my hands go with my age. They are even more worn, more freckled and sometimes I still want to find those white gloves.
I was holding my baby granddaughter the other day and I thought about how many babies these hands have held. How many times have I washed a bottom or a dish or waved goodbye? How many faces have I touched with love and adoration? How many times have I clasped these old hands together in prayer?
My hands have cooked thousands of meals and hammered thousands of nails. These hands cradled my mom the day she died and cradled my children the first day they started to live.
I think real beauty is found in all people in many ways. Yes, you have the glamorous models on shiny magazine covers to show you what beauty is supposed to look like. However, I think real beauty is something far more valuable than a magazine.
Perhaps beauty is in the permanent wrinkles around the mouths of people who have laughed through life and brought joy to others. Perhaps it is in the stooped woman who once carried the burden of raising her family alone. Perhaps it is in the arthritic football player who once thrilled crowds.
Perhaps it is in the miles we have walked, the tears we have shed, the joy we have shared, the burdens we have carried, and the victories that we enjoyed.
Maybe beauty is in these old hands – not for what they look like – but for what they have done for this old soul. Maybe it is time for me to give Mama’s old white gloves away.