Usually, my hands make me feel inadequate – the nails are rarely the same length, never hold polish for more than an hour, and the backs of my hands are always peppered with reminders written in permanent marker. But this morning, for the first time in a very long time, I stopped to look at them, and I liked what I saw.
I like the story they tell. They have scars from old adventures, notes that reflect a life filled to overflowing, and they are hands that have cooked meals, cared for children, given gifts, stroked pets, signed forms, dropped balls, written stories and held many, many other hands. If I could pick the best part of myself, it’s my hands. They may not be beautiful in any traditional sense, but they define who I am.
My sister’s hair has similar properties. It is at once enthusiastic, rebellious, constantly escaping conformity, colorful and irrepressible. It has spirit, humor and power, and it constantly defies every effort to hold it down. It is lives life simply, and thrives when left to it’s own devices. It is hair that doesn’t demand much in the way of maintenance and withstands every activity. It is unbowed by the elements; come wind, hail, sun or snow, it never flattens, simply goes with the flow and springs back when the storm has passed.
Then there are S’s eyes. They are an incredible shade of blue; clear, bright and piercing. They’d be intimidating if it wasn’t for the crinkles at the corners, betraying a love of laughter and enthusiasm for life. Those little lines are the dead giveaway that their owner has spent life out in the sun, not hiding in the shadows; that she has seen plenty and is still smiling. They were what drew me to her the first time we met – you don’t get eye crinkles from insincere smiles. You get them from joyful grins, from constant laughter, the kind that is directed at yourself, rather than at others. The ability to constantly see the funny side, wherever and whatever that might be.
With H, it’s shoulders. She has a swimmer’s shoulders: broad, strong and seemingly able to hold up the world. And when I first moved to Kenya, that’s exactly what they did. They supported my world when it was crashing around me, and barely noticed the effort.
With K, it was the lopsided piratical grin, that told me here was someone who laughed in the face of adversity, and would stand shoulder to shoulder with you in a fight.
L, the eye roll, that gave away the irreverent, rebellious streak that I adore.
A, the twinkle in a pair of brown eyes that let you know that even though you may come from different places and speak different languages, you don’t. Not really.
E; eyebrows that dance with laughter, and occasionally draw together in advance warning of an impending storm.
S, a brain that combines klutziness, steely competence and complete naiveté in a hilarious mix.
It’s funny how the things we desperately try to change are often the ones that the people who know us love most. How the parts that are different tell others about who we really are, and what they will love about us. They are the doors to our characters, the invitation to know the real person.
Photo courtesy of the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museum.