My grandmother loved through her hands.

Where my grandfather’s hands were as rough and calloused as the work he did, my grandmother’s were as soft as the fine thread of her crochet.

She loved through her hands. Through laying her fragile, gnarled, and blue-veined hand over mine. Through the hours and hours of crocheting, an afghan with my school colors, a framed piece of filet crochet spelling my name and year of high school graduation. Through table runners and potholders, curtains and baby clothes. Through the peas and beans they would shell as we sat on the porch, talking about goings-on, as we worked our way through my grandfather’s garden harvest. 

 

 

My grandmother’s hands made the best pancakes the world has ever known,  golden and brown in all the right places. I watched as the butter sizzled and batter bubbled “just right.” Her hands could flip them with no drop wasted.

They made gumbo and peeled the shrimp for them. We’d converge upon her kitchen, draping ourselves where we could to share company and food. They made liver, and we would flee. 

Her hands baked pecan and pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas, almost always making a lemon meringue especially for my father. It was—and still is, I think—his favorite.

They made candy at Christmas and cheese dip at New Year’s. I didn’t know until I was in my 20’s that “MeeMaw’s cheese dip,” also the best in the world, was made by other people. It was called Rotel dip and appeared at a work pot luck.

I was aghast.

I wondered how she and my grandfather were married for so long, more than 60 years. I once watched her as she crocheted, the television blaring and my grandfather blaring along with it. When he left the room, those hands reached up and turned on her hearing aid.

Those hands touched her face next to her brilliant blue eyes as they shone, brightening at the sight of my niece and nephew. Those hands cradled them as infants, waved to and played with them as toddlers, and, with the cooperation of her arms, hugged them fiercely as children. 

My grandmother loved through her hands.

She tried to teach me how to crotchet once; but I couldn’t seem to master the art. I made a single-stitch not-so afghani afghan once–king-sized–and sighed in satisfaction that I had accomplished so daunting a task.  True, the stitches ran like a drunk man rototilling a garden: all weaves and bobs and without a single even stitch between them.  

But I finished it, thanks to those hands and her patience. 

She had tried to teach me how to make pralines as well, but I didn’t have the experience to know how to add this ingredient “until it looked just right,” or stir it until it “felt just right.” Small wonder; her hands had been making them for longer than I had been alive.   

I made my first unsupervised batch of pralines this week. The smell of them transported me, and I was back in her tiny, blue-tiled kitchen, watching her hands as they poured the chopped pecans into the heavy gray pot, as they held the wooden spoon. I remembered the brown bubbles popping as the kitchen filled with the scents of our Southern Christmas: pecan pralines and my grandmother. I didn’t know the “just right,” part of it, but they were almost as shiny and beautiful as hers were.   
This picture was taken at my grandmother’s 93rd birthday and captures the beauty and essence of three of the strongest women I  know. All three of them have loved through their hands. 

While my grandmother passed some time ago, the legacy of those hands is immortal.  

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