January 2, 2024

Las Manos De Mi Abuela | The Resilient Beauty in Mi Abuela's Hands

My abuelita gave birth to ten children, and my mother is the eldest of those ten. The sounds of running kids and laughing babies always filled her home, as well as the smell of fresh tortillas on the comal, warm apapachos, and, of course, an overabundance of food.

Oh my goodness, her food. Some of my fondest childhood memories are in my abuelita’s kitchen. I vividly remember eating the fresh fruit she’d bring back from the Mercado or the tortilla con sal she’d set out as a midday snack. I fondly remember my portly childhood self devouring her sopa de fideo con limón or guzzling down un cafecito con pan right before bed. The amount of mouthwatering meals my grandmother prepared for our familia is almost indescribable. To even imagine the fact that she birthed, raised, and fed ten children of her own and then went on to help provide for those children’s subsequent 22 is something that’s simply unfathomable to me. I have only one child, for whom I don’t even cook. (Fortunately, my husband is a chef, but that’s a story for another article.)

Like my mother, who was my grandma’s first-born child, I, too, held a first in my family. I was the first of my cousins to give my grandparents a great-grandchild. When I was seven months pregnant, I flew home to my birthplace of Mexico City because my big-hearted family wanted to throw a baby shower for me. I don’t know if it was my pregnancy hormones or some otherworldly perception, but it was during that trip that I saw my grandmother’s hands in a way I had never previously realized.

Her hands possessed a beauty that I had never noticed before. And yet, the beauty was so obvious! Observing the dozens of undulating waves that covered my abuelita’s hands made me think of all the tears they wiped, the babies they rocked, the piñatas they filled, the thousands of caldos they stirred, the tortillas they patted, and the faces they blessed after she gave us la bendición before leaving her home. Her hands represented an unbelievable strength that I had never paused to appreciate until I became pregnant and began contemplating the many acts of love and service my hands would have to do for my baby. I felt a deep sense of reverence and gratitude for my abuelita and her loving hands. They represented irrefutable fortitude, and I find profound beauty in her resilience.

Before I returned to Colorado, I asked my grandma to join me for a photo shoot. I asked her to place her hand on my protruding belly. I thought there might be some capacity to absorb her energy and a way for my unborn son to feel that energetic resilience, too. I wanted him to know that he resulted from a long line of pure strength and perseverance. I wanted him to sense that the blood coursing through his veins came from a long lineage of strong, determined people who don’t break easily. I wanted him to know that the familia he was about to be born into bends, adapts, perseveres, pushes through, and withstands. Perhaps most importantly, have him understand that we are a family whose toughness is deeply rooted in love.

It has been over a dozen years since my grandma placed her hands on my belly for that photo shoot. My abuelita has since passed, but her resilient energy remains very much alive – both within my son and me. Life has knocked me down many times, my son, too, but we never stay there - we know where we came from. More importantly, we know who we came from.

If ever you find yourself feeling the aching need to restore your own sense of resilience, I have some advice for you. Invite one of your amigas or amigos out for some cafecito con pan, and ask them to share stories with you about their familia or abuelos. You will hear stories that will inspire you to tap into your unique reservoir of resilience. Hispanic or not, resilience can be restored and renewed by connecting to your own history of perseverance. It’s there, buried safely in the history of your family, waiting to be unearthed.

Take a moment to observe your own hands. They also have fascinating stories to tell. Stories about everything you’ve accomplished until now, everything you’ve experienced, felt, and achieved. With just one glance, my abuletia’s hands told me thousands of stories.

What stories do your hands tell?