I found an old manila envelope, heavy and bursting at the seams during a recent rearranging of a closet. When I finally and carefully pulled the weighty object out of the envelope it was wrapped in a couple of soft paper towels for protection. Bless my Mother who never threw anything away and managed to pass that gene down to me, there in my hands was a plaster of paris oval with my hand print in it. Its outside edge is painted in a soft pink surely down by the teacher and on the back my Mother wrote ‘Pat’s hand, five years old, kindergarten.’
My Mother taught me different hand games, itsy bitsy spider, patty cake, here is the church here is the steeple, two little black birds sitting on a fence, my Mother’s favorite memory of her Father playing that game with her. One handed games my brother and I played shooting marbles, jacks and pick up sticks. In school we learned to hold our right hand over our heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. In Boys and Girl Scouts we were taught the scout hand salutes; as we got older we learned the Vulcan Live Long salute from Star Trek shows.
My parents always held hands when we were out, something I rarely see anymore. They were good with their hands, Mom crocheting, knitting, tatting, mending holes in socks; Dad made wooden toys for us at Christmas. My Father took a correspondence course and learned how to be a locksmith. Extra money earned to help someone who locked themselves out of their house or cars; not to mention rescuing me on more than one occasion of locking my keys in the car while racing late to a class in college. Old cars were locked by pushing a button down on the door and then closing the door only to see the keys still in the ignition.
Last year I traveled to Germany and Amsterdam on my own to meet for the first time my cousin and her husband. She has two little Yorkies and I took to the female who was very timid. I was told that she was a rescue dog from a Turkish refugee camp and was abused. She would sit next to me and I mindlessly would pet her. I looked down at her and realized how relaxed I was and she was looking up at me with her soulful eyes trusting me not to abuse her with my hand.
I miss the touch of the hand. Our new sanitized, don’t touch messaging, vulgar use of hand gestures, pandemic isolation especially in nursing homes, the absence of touch from birth to the grave is a sad commentary on our world.