These hands let your tiny fingers curl around them on the day you were born. These hands changed, fed and bathed you. They stroked and supported your head, when your head was so small it fit into one of them. They rubbed and patted your back after every feed and gently jogged you to sleep over a shoulder. These hands pointed out each word and picture in the books of bedtime. They enveloped yours in safety in a parking lot and hoisted you out of a car seat. These hands guided you over the threshold on the first day of school, clapped and took proud pictures. They dabbed away scrapes, buttoned your front, applied band-aids to your knees, rinsed soap out of your eyes, did up your laces and brushed your hair every morning and night. They built plastic castles, placed candles in cakes, fed coins into rides and shovelled sand into buckets. These hands filled out forms, wrote letters to teachers, held you fast during shots and unwrapped candy afterwards. They tickled you, itched you for hours just the way you liked it and massaged cream into your skin. These hands decorated cupcakes, carried ingredients when your homework demanded it, glued costumes, painted your nails and sponged on make-up. These hands traced the routes on maps and drove miles to see you, laden with comforts from home and changing snow tires in mountain winters. They scribbled long, supportive letters and gripped the phone to hear your plaintive, faraway voice begging to come home. These hands lit and stubbed countless fretting cigarettes on long nights wondering where you were. They bandaged the sores on your feet, bathed your bruised body and washed your street torn clothes, seeking their last few dollars at the bottom of a handbag to hold out to you.
These hands covered a face and soaked up wounded, desperate, impotent tears when they led you away in chains, screaming my name in a courtroom. They held your baby son up to bulletproof glass for you to see on visits and wrapped parcels full of precisely folded clothes and frivolous treats. These hands painstakingly mended heirloom jewellery, adorned you with pearls, and interlaced tightly with the fingers of your father on the day you were married. They brushed stray hair from your face and scrubbed your kitchen clean. These hands foraged for food to give and wrung with pleas in the small hours of a morning. They scoured the net, clicking on your booking number and address and pushed fat letters full of the stories they typed through post box mouths. These careworn, lined hands sit empty and idle, missing their child.
These are your mother’s hands.