Thin fingers interlaced, wedding band hard against my soft skin, I’m folding my hands again. Sitting in the passenger seat of the car, I purposely press my palms into one another. I feel the strength in my arms and appreciate the angles of my wrists. I relax and look down to my lap. These are my mother’s hands. When did that happen?
I’ve been finding my hands folded more and more often when we drive together lately. I feel almost regal.
We are one of those families who prays before meals and before bed. I’ve said “Fold Your Hands” at least nine million times. (Four times a day x three kids x almost ten years = somewhere around nine million.)
Still, my kids forget. At least one of them needs a reminder (or three) at every single meal.
In addition to instilling a physical act to accompany the practice of prayer, folding their hands gives those body parts a job to do (even for the shortest of Graces).
Do not eat.
Do not poke.
Do not stick forks in your nose while we pray.
As a child, I was told to fold my hands, too, so in the middle of this busy life, finding my hands folded surprises me.
Because everyone within earshot liked to say, “It’ll change” if I happened to mention we were in a good rhythm, place, or schedule with our baby, I knew it wouldn’t last. But for three months after the birth of our first child, when she started sleeping in 4 hour chunks, we had a routine.
Each evening, my husband fed her while I pumped. Liquid Gold sealed and stored in the refrigerator for the following night’s bottle, I’d run to the bathroom and brush my teeth with a giddiness over what was coming next.
The Dive Into Bed.
There’s no other way to describe it. It was a blissed-out mix of flying, jumping, and falling before the blessedness of sleep. (Even if it was only four hours.)
The Dive came only once a day. And I lived for it. Never in my life have I known the depths of exhaustion, nor the unexpected pleasure of one physical act.
The Dive defined a period of my life.
By the time our third child was born, I was a card carrying member of the Ain’t-no-one-got-time-for-that (shower) club. But a few months into Life With Three, The Crazy-Hot Shower became the focal point of my day.
The Shower was more than a hygienic necessity. I would think about The Shower, plan for The Shower, and my husband knew every strand of my sanity was tethered to The Shower. Missing it was not an option. My mind, body, and spirit were renewed daily by the sacraments of water, peace, and heat.
I am many seasons away from The Dive, when time stood still, and I’m no longer obsessive about the guaranteed quiet and serenity within The Shower.
Nothing about either one is extraordinary---minus the specific memories linking them to a distinct emotional and physical time of my life, like mental ebenezer stones marking my journey through motherhood.
For nearly a decade, my hands have been changing clothes and wiping spit. (The first time I re-read this, I saw a different word instead of spit, which, given the subject, is fitting, because it’s also true.) Getting snacks. Filling cups. Cleaning spills. Combing hair. Washing bodies.
My grasp full of chubby thighs, my hands kept those sweet babies tight on my hip. And as they grew, I held their own little hands---trying to keep tiny bodies close, upright, and out of danger.
In the car, I’ve been the retriever of fallen pacifiers and dropped blankets. I’m the exchanger of books and the skipper to favorite songs. Sometimes, my husband and I even hold hands.
It’s been some months since the first time I found my hands like this. And it continues to catch me off guard. I simply cannot believe they have nothing else to do.
Oh mothers, our hands are usually so busy, aren’t they?
I swore I’d never say this for it’s triteness, but there’s a small part of me that’s sad. Have the years really passed as fast as everyone told me they would? Are the kids really old enough to not need me to do so much, so much of the time?
Yet there’s also this glint of pleasure in my children’s increasing independence, as if our youngest child is standing in a hallway full of light and is waking me up from sleeping in a dark room by slowly cracking open the door.
I’m also pleased with the resting place, the home base, to which my hands repeatedly return when they’re not busy. My Folded Hands are etching a mark into the memories of this time in my life.
Sitting in the car, Folded Hands are an unintentional and unmistakable sacred pause. A divine invitation.
To say Thank you.
For this life. For this moment. For these kids.
To ask for wisdom. Forgiveness. Protection. And guidance.
Remember, this is important work too. This is what your hands can still do for them.
I just might need nine million reminders.
Written by Sonya Spillmann