How lovely, to look at my 8-year-old daughter’s hands,
at her long, slender fingers and half-painted
nails and think, “Those are my mother’s hands.”
Deep-rooted memories surface that reveal why her once
smooth hands are now rough and wrinkled.
Hands of a child that begged for food during the Korean War
and wiped away tears when both parents died suddenly.
Nails that broke repeatedly at the
dry cleaners where she sewed and stapled tickets for years, as
slender fingers stirred ramen with chopsticks daily for lunch.
Hands that held my U.S. soldier father’s hands in Korea,
always much smaller and colder, with
nails that anxiously dug into the plane’s seat after she married and
departed for America.
Slender fingers that danced with Napa cabbage while making kimchi.
Hands that picked up empty cans of
alcohol when dad had passed out on the couch.
Nails rarely painted because of manual labor jobs,
doing everything possible to support your kids after the divorce.
Slender fingers that balanced Virginia slim cigarettes for years,
holding onto hope for your family’s future.
Alone, again, like when you were young.
Nails scratched from grinding garlic and
drenched in sesame oil for the feasts you made to show affection.
Slender fingers holding cold food at dad’s memorial service,
haunted by his memory while surrounded by his wife and strangers,
anxious to return home and eat rice again.
Nails that lovingly scrubbed your only granddaughter’s head and
delicately scratched her back as she slept.
Slender fingers awkwardly dialing us to video chat.
Hands of survival.
Hands of love.
My mother’s hands.