Hands of Love: A Tribute
by Mary Ellen Gambutti
Long before I was born, you gathered warm eggs on a Pennsylvania mountain farm. You worked for your widower grandfather, cooked for his farm-hands, gardened and scrubbed. You married Mike, a coal miner, and when the mines closed, you traveled with your two young children to New York City. Mike took work as a mechanic. You were a laundress and housemaid, cooked and cleaned for your own family. You washed mounds of laundry and hung it up to dry on the tar roof. When you became my Nana, I shadowed you at your antique Maytag, careful around the wringer, dipping whites in bluing. You hung the clothes with wooden pins in the sun-filled garden.
Nana, it was you who showed me how to plant and prune, taught me perennials and annuals, gave me scissors to cut roses from your bountiful arbors. Your soft-leaved African Violets bloomed on windowsills. You rooted leaves in whiskey glasses, for you never imbibed.
You never wore work gloves, but white cotton gloves to church, wool gloves to shovel snow. No rings, except a plain gold band. Fingernails stained yellow from working soil. I cleaned them with great affection, eased out crusted residue. You pumped a splotch of Jergens and rubbed your palms together. I held out my hands and you massaged sweet cherry-almond lotion into mine.
Nana, your hands tamed the steering wheels of Model A, Nash Rambler, Ford Falcon. You hoisted brown paper bags filled with groceries. You coaxed my hair into braids. My hand in yours, we walked to the park. You bathed me in your pink tub, dusted me with powder - a fuzzy puff.
Love shone through your gentle acceptance of work. As you slipped away, I talked to you, held your fine, translucent hands, wrinkled, flaccid, silken. “You have worked so hard for ninety-eight years, Nana. Time for a well-deserved rest.”
arranging my pots -
a child gardening
by Nana's side
* * * * *
"Hands of Love: A Tribute" was first published in Haibun Today.
Mary Ellen's work is published or forthcoming in Gravel Magazine, Wildflower Muse, Remembered Arts Journal, Vignette Review, Modern Creative Life, Thousand and One Stories, Halcyon Days, NatureWriting, PostCard Shorts, Memoir Magazine, Haibun Today, CarpeArte, Borrowed Solace, Winter Street Writers, Amethyst Review, StoryLand, mac(ro)mic, SoftCartel, Drabble, FewerThan500, BellaMused and Contemporary Haibun Online. Her book is Stroke Story, My Journey There and Back. She and her husband reside in Sarasota, FL.