Soon my grandson will celebrate his six-month birthday. Actually
that's not quite true. Chances are only his family will celebrate this
milestone. Charles, on the other hand, will continue his daily pursuits
oblivious of the date and its significance. On that day he will smile
and on occasion laugh. He will expend awe-inspiring effort to drag
himself a few feet across the floor until he is able to crawl there.
And we will, of course, clap our hands at his every accomplishment.
after his birth a friend asked me if I had processed the fact that I
was a grandmother. My response was that I hadn't even processed the
fact that I was a mother and thus felt far removed from "getting it"
that my daughter was now the mother of a child who was by definition my
Life is a lot to take in.
Shortly after his
birth, I held my grandson for the first time. A tiny hand grasped my
index finger. Since that overwhelmingly powerful moment I've been
thinking a lot about hands.
We wring them. We wave them. We clap
them. We hold them. We make them into fists. We use them to replace
or accompany speech. We salute or insult with our hands. If we've lost
control we say that things got out of hand. If we want to pass
responsibility to another person we say we will hand it off. The height
of a horse is measured in hands. We shake hands with another
originally to indicate we had no weapons and now to show positive
regard. Charity without respect can be called a hand out. In
negotiations we don't want to show our hand too early. If we are
experienced it might be said that we are old hands at it. When we help
out a friend we have lent a hand. Decisions can be made by a show of
hands. If our hands are tied we are unable to, for example, lend a
hand. When we have too much to do we might say that our hands are full.
Supervisors who work alongside staff might be said to be hands on in
style. When we refuse or fail to take action we are possibly sitting on
Hands have power in language and in life.
the past almost six months, Charles has accomplished magnificent things
with his hands. He can now pull his mother's hair. He can tug his
father's necktie. He can grasp and release his rattle. He can stroke
his dog's nose. He can pick up a spoon and with his other hand fill the
spoon with pumpkin. He can also pick up more pumpkin and rub it into
his hair. And, of course, he continues to grasp my fingers. His grip
is stronger and much more deliberate than on the day of his birth but
still mesmerizing and mystifying.
He is learning at six months the possibilities of his hands.
course, we all continue to learn the potential of our hands. With our
hands we play violin concertos and write novels and turn pages and knead
dough and butter bread and comfort and caress. And with our hands we
pull triggers and hit and inflict unbearable pain.
For the rest of his life my grandson will continue to discover the potential of his hands. He will assign them their tasks.
In that way we are all like Charles. We must each decide the work of our hands.
I celebrate his first six months of life and wish him decades and
decades more I also wish him the courage to use his hands for good.
I'll explain all of that to him in a few years. For now I'll just
enjoy having him hold onto my finger while I wipe the pumpkin out of his