My Favourite Five

Where are the sonnets devoted to hands? Perhaps they’re just too ordinary. But maybe, that's what makes them so special after all.

favourite five hands reaching out to touch

My youngest, little Holly, turns five this year.

I feel like we’re only just getting to know each other but school beckons - a new world of friends and lessons and classrooms that I will only ever visit.

It’s a special time when we will both navigate some unfamiliar and slightly unnerving territory - hand in hand.

So much of parenting, and life for that matter, comes down to hands. Yet no one ever seems to talk about them or even look at them, except when you get engaged, let alone write about them.

Where are the sonnets devoted to fingers? And the romantic lexicon is virtually silent when it comes to our hard-working hands.

Perhaps they’re just too ordinary, too plain. But that’s what makes them so special to me.

Counters, clickers, caressers and sadly on occasion violent abusers. We use our hands to write, cook, throw, tear and to lift, touch or smooth.

Time is measured in increments of five, reflecting the vital role of finger counting on the development of the contemporary concept of time.

We clap with them when we’re happy, we wring them when we’re worried, sit on them when we can’t keep still and rub them together when we’re cold.

The same fingers that sign peace treaties and end wars can just as simply pull a trigger on a gun or detonate a missile.

Delicate enough to detect a single strand of hair or a grain of sand those same fingers can haul suitcases or swing a sledgehammer through its destructive arc.

I loved watching all my children discover their fingers. Their amazement at how these funny five digits could be opened and shut with nothing more than a thought.

My Dad had huge, sausage-like fingers.

Hands one patient told him looked more suited to boxing than surgery. But my memory of them is that they were always warm and kind.

They enveloped my hand when I was little and I never, ever remember them being raised in anger.

He used to practice writing with his left hand just in case he ever lost the use of his right-hand side.

In the end, the cancer that took him so swiftly paid no heed to his big hands or his even bigger heart.

Holly is left handed. Something of a rarity in our family.

Sometimes, as I watch her battle with scissors or get cross at her smudged colouring-in, I wonder if my Dad didn’t play some small role in sending her to us – even though he never met her.

He never stroked her impossibly soft skin or walked hand in hand with her through the park, following her insistent lead to inspect insects and flowers or just marvel at the world.

I know the day will come when she won’t slip her little fingers into mine as we walk into school.

When our farewells will be shouted through car windows or across slamming doors. But I’ll still wave and maybe even blow a kiss and I hope she’ll manage some brief gesture. A slightly raised hand and the ever so subtle wiggle of fingers that I see the other teens do.

My own hands seem unimaginably old to me. They seem to have aged faster than the rest of me but I feel like they’ve worked harder too.

I wonder where Holly’s busy little fingers will take her.

I wonder who she’ll hold hands with and whether somewhere off in an only imagined future someone small will someday slip their soft, little fingers into her hand as they walk side by side into the first day of school.

By Catherine Low. 

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