A Mother’s Love

A reflection on love and relationship.

Jack and I looked after three of our granddaughters one evening so their parents could take a well-deserved break. With little Chloe already nestled in her crib, we read stories with Abigail and Hanna before tucking them in for the night. 

First they snuggled up to Poppa while he read to them. Then it was my turn. The girls joined me on the floor with the book in front of us. I turned pages with one hand while leaning on the other to balance. Abigail commented on each of the beautiful illustrations. I felt a gentle tickle on the back of my hand and looked down to see Hanna, happily tracing a wandering path along its contours. Up and down she went along the bones, over the hills and valleys of my knuckles, and meandering along the bluish roadmap created by my protruding veins. I don’t know if she heard the story at all, but she was fascinated with her fingers at play.

Later I sat looking at my hands and smiling. Hanna had taken me back to my own childhood. As a little girl I used to play with my mother’s hands, especially in situations where I needed to be quiet and sit still. In my eyes, Ma had the most beautiful hands in the world. 

It’s been more than 12 years since Ma passed away. She was such a character. I often think of her – remembering her voice, her vivid story-telling, her work-ethic and old world wisdom. She loved sunshine and warm weather and furry creatures of all sorts. Something of a news junkie, she read the paper every day, always starting with the obituaries – “If my name’s not there, I keep reading,” she would say with a laugh. She couldn’t sleep at night until she had watched the 11 o’clock news. 

Ma was a yo-yo dieter, more than once shedding 40 lbs. or more from her 5’5” frame, then slowly gaining it back again. She kept three sets of clothes in the closet. “My fat, skinny and in-between wardrobes,” she said. No matter where she was on her weight loss rollercoaster she always had something to wear.

Although she spoke with a fairly thick German accent, she was an excellent speller, avid reader and loved to do crossword puzzles to improve her vocabulary. She could do amazing math problems in her head and never owned a calculator in her life. 

She was well into her 70s when I first noticed how her hands had aged. Once solid and strong, they now trembled a little, even just holding a coffee cup. Arthritis ravaged her fingers. A few age spots stained her skin. Still, I thought her hands remained uniquely lovely. 

I wrote a column about her hands – all the wonderful, ordinary, important things they had done for me over the course of a lifetime. I slipped it in with her Mother’s Day card that year. Ma never cared for sentimentality and had no idea what to do with a compliment, let alone how to receive admiration or gratitude. I knew that. It didn’t matter.

As we approach Mother’s Day this year I wish I could hold her hand again and tell her that I love her and watch her squirm. (Her usual response was, “I know.”)

For now I’ll thank the Lord for precious memories and the gift of a good mom. I’ll cherish the little hands that hold mine these days. A mother’s love is imperfect, as quirky as we are, but it’s still something to be profoundly thankful for, throughout the generations.

  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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