The Story Hands
She came up to me while I was in the Commissary parking lot, insisting that she just had to see my baby.

She was small with dyed red hair that had just a bit of white roots showing. She wore the perfect glasses for an elderly woman; they were perched sprightly on the end of her nose and showed me bright eyes that were just beginning to grow dim. Her voice was soft yet commanding with the New Mexican accent I hear so often. Her clothes were colorful and age appropriate; she was just right.

"Oh, she's beautiful" she exclaimed. She clucked at Eliza, smiling with her whole face. She exclaimed some more over my daughter's beauty then rubbed her soft hand on Eliza's equally soft hand. Her love for babies was so evident to me.

She then turned her attention to Judah, asking if Eliza was his baby. Judah enthusiastically nodded his head in affirmation, pleased that someone finally realized that Eliza was indeed his baby. He showed her his car and she feigned fear that he was going to run her over with it.

"But you wouldn't do that, I can tell." she said. Judah just smiled at her from behind the thumb he was sucking.

I asked her if she had any children.

Four children, she said. And fourteen grandchildren. She birthed three girls and one boy. Far apart, she let me know, so that each child was walking by the time the new baby arrived and could get her own milk.

I asked if she had always lived here and she said no, no, she had grown up in Northwest New Mexico. She and her husband had moved to our town so she could go to college. She went to school for preschool education when she was 54 years old and loved every minute of it. After completing college she taught preschool until she was forced to retire. She seemed quite sad about that.

I asked her about her growing up years - did she have a lot of siblings? She was the youngest of twelve. She told me how her growing up years were wonderful; her home was filled with love and fun. She told me how she and all her siblings thought her mother was the greatest cook in the world. She learned to cook under her; burritos, tacos, and so much more... As she described it all to me her hands moved in the motion of years of burrito rolling. Nothing went to waste, she said. Nothing. She then, so thoughtfully, gave me tips on how to use left over potatoes - bless her heart.

As she was talking I saw the love for her life shining in her eyes; she hadn't lived halfway, of that I could plainly see. She went on to tell me about the tiny schoolhouse she and her siblings attended; about how she would help the cook make lunch and in doing so she would procure for herself an extra bit of food.

She threw her head back and laughed at that memory.

But then it happened; she started to tell me that she had four children and fourteen grandchildren. She told me where she had grown up and why they had moved. I realized she had a slight case of dementia. It brought such sadness to my heart. She was smart as a whip - well spoken and kind. I nodded my head and continued in the conversation as if I had never heard that information before.

Four or five times she told me about how many children she had. All I wanted to do was hug her but instead I asked if she would let me photograph her hands. I needed the memory of her.

"My hands?" she said, looking at them with fresh eyes. Yes, your hands, I told her. I gently held one and told her they were perfect.

"Oh, they have arthritis." she said sadly. I insisted they were perfect, because to me they were.

She agreed to let me take a photo, asking how I wanted her to position them. Maybe like this, I said, laying my hands over one another. She did so after adjusting her rings.

I took the pictures and showed them to her.

"Hmmph" she said, not at all pleased with the wrinkles and creases and the look of arthritis. I told her they were beautiful. She wasn't convinced, but that was okay. I knew they were beautiful and perfect in every way.

Unfortunately I had to go, I needed to get into the store and do my shopping. The kid's naptime was quickly approaching and their current good behavior was going to swiftly decline into the dark territory of bad behavior if I didn't get a move on.

I never did get her name but it didn't seem to matter. That would have been just a formality. She made a deep imprint on my life and that is what mattered.

This lovely woman gently laid her hand on my arm, looked deep into my eyes and reminded me to enjoy my children; love on them because they grow too quickly.

I needed to hear that; I needed to hear it from a woman who has lived and loved long. Earlier that morning I had prayed that God would bring just the right person into my day for me to photograph; she was perfection. Absolute perfection.

And that, my friend, is the story of these beautiful hands.

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