Homage to Their/My Hands by Michaela Mendoza


I hate the term “working hands.” I hate it because we just expect those hands to be stained with oil or mud and have dirty nails.

    It’s not that I don’t appreciate those hands, because I do.  There are more of those kind of “working hands” in my family than there are actual people (obviously if you do the math right).  But these hands do the “men’s work” (not that I couldn’t do it if I wanted to, but because they don’t want me to and frankly I don’t really want to either. I just don’t like having dirty hands in general; like eating something that’ll make your hands sticky (eww).).  I love those hands though. They’ve built the shelves that hang in my bedroom, the tree house I’d always wanted, and kept my car going when it decided to take a shit on me. It’s these hands that have held my bike up when I was still learning about balance, and stole cookies for me when no one was watching.  These hands taught me how to block a soccer ball from meeting the goal, how to plant flowers and showed me what a good game of chess looks like. Those hands are rough on the edges. They’re scarred and scabbed, they ache with carpal tunnel and arthritis from the long days work while they hold the sweat-drenched bandanas, a Corona and a Camel cigarette bud. They look a lot older than they really are with their age spots and wrinkles displaying their past struggles. But beneath the calluses and imprinted dirt particles, are the hands that held me close when I was scared, wiped away my tears as I cried, and patted me on the back to give me that extra push.  Those hands taught me that I don’t always have to be so “hard,” because “it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.” I appreciate those hands.

    But I don’t understand why are those hands the only “working” ones. I’ve seen hands much more delicate, clean and polished doing just as much “work.” Those hands did my hair, prepared enough  beans and rice to feed an army (and my family being as big as it is, it might as well be). They’ve taught me how to do my makeup, how a tampon works and how to change a diaper if I ever needed to. I’ve seen these hands cure fevers and belly aches, repair clothing that could still be put to good use, and make the best tortillas from scratch.  As I got older, they taught me how to use my hands to defend myself “just in case, because you just never know.” They taught me how to measure spices in “pinches” and “sprinkles,” and how to feel for the best avocados for guacamole in the grocery stores. These hands held mine when I needed support, pushed my hair behind my ears and cupped my face and said “you’re enough,” when I needed it the most. They rubbed my back when i needed comforting, and blessed me with the sign of the cross each time I was about to leave the house.  These hands mean the world to me, they taught me how use mine to show love when my voice wasn’t saying it.  

My hands aren’t like any of those hands. They don’t know a lot about manual labor and barely know how to make anything edible.  But my hands are working hands too, I think. These hands know how to take hold of my thoughts and put them to paper. They can tap along to the beat of my favorite song of the week for hours on end when I feel overwhelmed, and can play an advanced game of charades when I can’t verbally find the words.  My hands know when something sounds cliche enough to slash a line through (though I think this whole essay is walking the very fine line between bearable and making me wish I was lactose intolerant). They know how to allow me to word vomit my emotions onto a single page (if I really wanted to) and get my eyeliner to look exactly the way I like it. Each day they remind me that not all animals are nice and want to be my friend and that it’s probably not a good idea to grab something right out of the oven, but that holding someone else’s hands in mine is when I feel the most content. My hands don’t have constant dirt in their nails, and may not pick the best fruit in the pile, but they do have those weird bumps from holding my pen too tight and sooo many paper cuts that it’s almost unhealthy. But I love them anyway; they’re my working hands.

Michaela Mendoza- a student, Chicana, hipster, feminist, dog mom, Jamba Juice Jedi and coffee fiend. Is a perpetual pun user and “dad joke” enthusiast; can be found in Tulare CA, Westeros, Hogwarts, or Middle Earth; will most likely be listening to alternative music, Stevie Nicks or rewatching her favorite shows for the six(thousand)th time on Netflix; enjoys sarcasm, Winter, graphic socks, and long drives; probably won’t have the same hair color as she did six months ago, but most likely still hate pickles; values honesty, freedom of expression and the power of chocolate; uses up her phone storage with photos and videos of her favorite moments and experiences, notes and ideas for future writing, and Pinterest boards; is constantly inspired by the amazing people in her life; is completely overwhelmed with love and appreciation.

Photo by hansworld on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Carolina Mata