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When I interview elders about their life stories for family histories, I always ask them to describe their grandparents and parents. “Describe their personalities.” “What did they look like?” Although photographs may offer a visual reference, the impressions made on us provide further insight.

An interesting article,”How your life story is told by your hands,” stirred some personal memories.

My paternal grandmother always said her hands were her best feature, and even though she grew up in the country and raised three boys, she made a point of protecting and taking care of her hands.

My maternal grandfather was a sailor in the 1920s, using his hands swabbing the deck and working on the engines. After leaving the Navy, he worked in a lumber mill, and while pushing a piece of lumber through a circular saw, his hand slipped, and a finger was cut off. When my brothers and I were children, he made up a different story each time we asked about the missing finger.

My mother’s hands reflected gardening, sewing, and drawing. They were strong, and supportive. You knew she would catch you if you fell, literally and figuratively.

What do you “see” when you think of loved ones’ hands?

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