My hands are like my mom's. It bothers me. I like it. Kinda bittersweet. She had small elfish hands with crooked pinky fingers. So do I. They show my age, actually they look older.
The freckles on my face give me a youthful look. Most guess mid twenties. I'm in my thirties. But the freckles on my hands look like age spots. I guess I'm at that age when it starst to matter to me. The four or five or ten silver hairs that spiral out of my head catch my eye in the bathroom mirror. I imagine long silver and white flowing hair and smile. Fairy like. I buy a box of red dye and it sits in the bathroom drawer.
My mom's hands were a bit more claw like. She had longer thicker nails, always painted green or blue or burgendy. My hands are a bit broader, a touch of my father. My nails are longer now. I bit them for twenty years. Once in a while I bite them off again. A stress thing, anxiety over work, friends, myself.
From the wrist up, my mom and I shared a love for ink. One of my arms is inked with dragonflies and water lillies from the wrist to collar bone. Both my mom's arms had flowers and butterflies, as did much of her body.
But underneath, I am just me. freckles, smooth skin, peach fuzz. I like these images, though superficial, they are my design, a silly totem. My arm a pretty canvas.
Underneath my mom's tattoos are scars. Some superficial, those cries for help. Others deep, too deep, a desire for an end. From wrist to arm to neck to breast to inner thigh, and down her legs. Ink and scars.
I have no scars, I never cut.
One summer visit when I was 13, she gave me my first tattoo. A silly little symbol on the small of my back. No bigger than a nickle. She said it meant a mother's love. That same visit, I gave her one. A slighlty different symbol, meaning a daughter's heart. I think she made them up.
There was a section on both her arms that was super soft, had the prettiest tattoos. I liked to touch it when I was younger, even though it was weird. If it had not been me, I think she would have flinched at the touch. But she always let me love her. That was her gift.
I learned later that weird softer section was a skin graph. She had cut to deep, cut some off. Had to have it grafted from her thigh.
The last time I held her hand I was in my early twenties. It was about 6 months before she took her own life. Pills, not cutting. I compared our pinky fingers, the crooked way they both bent in toward our ring fingers. The pretty flowers on both our arms.
"You are my heart" she said.
She always held my hand so firmly, but it did not hurt. It was comforting. Warm, the way a mother's touch is supposed to be. I hugged her goodbye. It was different that time. There was a peace between us. I remember wanting more tattoos. I drew them on the plane. But what I remember now is our crooked pinky fingers and that I let go first.