The Story Is in Our Hands

“Mom, why are my fingers so crooked?” Her voice comes over the seatback that separates us and makes me take notice. I catch her eye in the review mirror.  “What do you mean?” I ask, though I am sure I already know. We sit there long enough that she tells me what she really wanted to say all along:  She tells me how her best friend noticed her hands today in class. Noticed them, and then paraded her around the room–as she tells it–to show everyone else how crooked her fingers are.  “Mom, I tried to laugh when they laughed.  But what I really wanted to do was cry.” And at that moment, what I think I know is shattered, my heart broken.  At that moment, I want to cry, too.

I thought this was a moment of personal insecurity.  One that I could relate to.  Instead, today my girl learned something about the world.  Something that I wish weren’t true.  So what do I say?  How do I turn this into something that saves her spirit, restores her faith, and lifts her up?

“You know,” I start, unsure of where I am headed, “sometimes I don’t like the way my hands look, either.  But when I see my hands, I don’t usually think about how they look.  I think about all that they do.  They were made for working, that much is clear.  They’ve put up walls and built our house.  They’ve typed all the stories that I’ve put on paper and are waiting for all the ones I still have to tell.  They held you the moment you were born and every day since, even though you are almost too big to hold.  My hands are so much more than the way they look. Because most days, they look ragged.  Dry.  Cracked.  And if I position them just right, they look like dragon talons,” I tell her, laughing.

“Yeah, but Mom…”

I interrupt, “But wait, I’m not done.  I wonder why your friend would make you feel bad about something that you cannot change.  Something that makes you, you.”

“I could change them,” she tells me, “with plastic surgery.”

I blink slowly and sigh deeply.  “But would you, if you could?” I ask her.  And from here, the story truly unfolds.

“No,” she replies.

“No,” I repeat.  “Because those swollen knuckles, they mean that I’m your mama.  That you are grandma’s girl and that you even belong to my grandma before her.  We all have the same shape to our fingers, with knuckles that make it hard to get rings on and off, but I know where I come from when I see them. And that crooked pointer, the one that bends at the first knuckle, you get that from your dad.  Every time you point with that finger, it lights me up to see him in you.  Think of all the amazing things that Dad has made with his hands.

“And that crooked pinky,” I continue, holding up the same crooked pinky to remind her, “That one is all Papa’s.”  I can feel the tears burning at the corners of my eyes.  “All Papa’s. It’s one of the ways that I know he is still here.  I can see him in you and in our crooked pinky.  I wouldn’t straighten that tiny finger out for all the money in the world.” I may have overdone it, but what I want–what I need–her to know is that our hands tell our story.  And beyond that:  There is a story in all of our perfect imperfections and blessedly so.  “So, if your friend ever points out something like that again, take the chance to tell her your story.”


slice of life challengeToday is Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers.  Join us!

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. There is a story in our imperfections and we all have them. I have teary eyes reading this…this really is the story of all of our lives. You were a strong mama in this exchange, phenomenal ‘slice’. xo nanc

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mrssokolowski says:

    This is an incredibly powerful exchange between mother and daughter, your love for your daughter and your family shining through each word. My third graders are reading books about social issues and there is a book that comes to mind- My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig. It’s about a girl who has a friend who is mean to her sometimes but it is confusing because they are “friends.” Sounds like your daughter’s friend has a touch of that. (“With friends like that….”) I know in life kids and people will say and do things that hurt our children, but as a mom is is shattering and heart breaking to see your child face torment. Thanks for sharing this incredible, touching slice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jmjd says:

    Your response was spot on. Though you may not know where you were headed with this (and isn’t that so often the case?), I’m sure your words will stay with her. They were just lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing that beautiful conversation. Your daughter is very fortunate to have a mother who can point out their is beauty in individuality far beyond the fashion magazines.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Erika Victor says:

    Oh, this is so beautiful! I long to be the kind of person who can say all those kinds of “just right” words at the just right time, never mind the kind of person who can capture such a moment in such beautiful words. Thank you for sharing your story and the story of the hands.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. dashthebook says:

    A beautiful and wise way to handle those teachable moments with our children’s insecurities. Lovely story!

    Like

  7. Dana Murphy says:

    This is so beautiful, so tender, so loving. I hope when my girls ask me tough questions later in life, or present me with tough scenarios, that I am able to answer them as beautifully as you did here. Gorgeous. This should be published somewhere. Picture book, maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Morgan says:

      Wow, Dana! This is such a compliment. Maybe. .. 🙂

      Like

  8. Tara Smith says:

    You took what your daughter saw as a problem and made it something she should be proud of, a gift – a link to people she knows and loves and looks up to. That is beautiful parenting!

    Like

  9. While you were teaching your daughter to appreciate something about herself, you taught ME. I tend to “blame” some of my traits on my parents instead of celebrate them. I need to remember this thought: “…I know where I come from when I see them.” I’m also thinking that this could apply to emotional, intellectual, and mental “imperfections.” I’m thinking of ADD, anxiety, giftedness (sometimes giftedness makes kids more sensitive and emotional than other kids), learning disabilities, mental illness, OCD, depression, etc. Sometimes, those “imperfections” make people more apt in other areas. If only we could all see our “imperfections” as gifts, the world would be a happier place – we’d quit being so desperate to change things about ourselves. Thank you so much for this message. I agree with Dana. I definitely see this as a picture book, and it would have a special place in my classroom library.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Morgan says:

      Wow, Holly. Thank you for putting words to the message. I’m excited about the possibilities for this story.

      Like

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