“You’ve got veiny hands,” my flatmate commented as her finger prodded onto the slightly bulging green pipelines that run across the back of my palms.
“Mm? I do? Oh yeah, I guess I do now. I’ve never had them before,” I shrugged.
“Do you do a lot of hard work with your hands?” My flatmate’s a doctor-to-be, so analysing people’s anatomy is one of her favourite past times.
I thought about it for a while, because I hadn’t really noticed them. In fact, my veins were so hidden before this that doctors and nurses often found it hard to draw blood during a medical check-up. What has changed, then? Is it age? Dehydration?
And then it hit me. I’ve been rock climbing actively for the past six months ever since I got to London. I told my flatmate that’s probably the reason why. I turned my hands over and looked at my palms, now adorned by random callouses that mark my battles with the crimpy rough holds at the crag.
If my mother was here, she’d be tossing a bottle of moisturiser at me now.
“Mee, why are your veins protruding so much?” a younger, smaller me once asked as I pressed them like they’re bubble wraps. It was a strange, calming sensation.
“Mummy has ugly hands, not good for wearing rings,” she would tell me.
“I like your hands,” I’d tell her.
My brother and I often acknowledge the fact that our hands mostly resemble our father’s – puffy palms with short, stumpy fingers. Most people just tell us we have “small hands”. It’s quite true, I’ve always found playing an octave on the piano or stretching beyond the fourth fret on the guitar pretty challenging, and that also includes getting a good hold at the climbing wall sometimes.
My mother, on the other hand, has skinny fingers. She tries to take care of her hands the best she can, I would notice – but nothing can undo the years of toil that she has put in to raise the family.
Besides carrying a full 9-to-5 job, those hands would begin the day by making us our breakfasts (and school lunches) every morning, drive us to school (and sometimes back from school during her lunch break just so she could spend more time with us), prepare dinner, wash the dishes, hand-scrub our white uniforms and hanging the laundry. On weekends, she would go to the market, clean, dust and sweep (my father would mop) the house, and made all our meals.
She would be the first to wake up, and the last to go to bed – every single day.
I remember vividly too, that even when she was recovering from a post-surgery – she was back on her feet just days after being discharged from the hospital. We tried to help around as much as we could, but even then, no one wanted to make sure her children wore clean and pressed school uniforms as much as she did.
Those were the same hands that held ours on our first day of school, guided ours as we wrote our first alphabets, caught us when we fell and scraped our knees at the playground, consoled us on our bad days, turned the countless pages of bedtime stories, tucked us into bed and showered us with hugs.
The same hands that carried disappointment and heartache when we pushed them away during our horrible teenage years, and dropped text messages that we sometimes don’t reply to when we became “busy” adults. The ones that are clasped together as she says a prayer or two for us every night, even when we least deserve it.
The hands that would welcome us home come rain or shine.
Today, those hands are skinnier and bear more wrinkles than before. And yet, they are not done giving yet. They’re happy grandma hands now.
Six months of physical assertion on the climbing wall – pushing, pulling and hanging by my own weight against different inclinations was nothing compared to the weight my mother’s hands carried for the family for the past 34 years.
You see, the veins at the back of a rock climber’s hands are usually more pronounced after a climb, fuelled by adrenaline.
But the thing that pumps through a mother’s veiny hands every single second?
Love. In its purest, unselfish form.
I would be so blessed and honoured as to even have half of that running through my own.
Thank you, Mom, for the years of unrelenting and unconditional love outpouring from your veiny hands.
And as wrinkled and old as they can get, they will always be the most beautiful pair of hands to me.