Credit: Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash

Shiny clear gloss or light pink, buffed and short. That’s how my mother always wore her nails. As evidenced by random bottles of Sally Hansen Hard as Nails polish scattered throughout our house. Clear polish was much too boring for my 7-year-old tastes … therefore my mother never had to worry about any of her bottles going missing.

My mother’s hands were always neat and well- manicured but never fancy or flashy. She would rub in thick globs of Nivea cream or petroleum jelly to soften her coffee-colored hands. I never ever saw my mother go to a real nail salon. She wasn’t the pampering type plus she was always busy working two and three jobs to keep the lights on and food in the fridge.

We didn’t do mother daughter spa days and such, instead we bonded while looking out of the bathroom window together. People watching and talking about life. I had endless plans for my grown-up self and questions about how to make it all happen. She would listen and nod approvingly as mothers do.

Sometimes my mother would watch me ride my bike around the yard and fuss at me for getting too close to her bushes. Other times we’d sit in our living room watching episodes of 60 Minutes or Sesame Street together.

My mother’s hands washed and braided my hair on Saturday mornings. I despised the days she broke out the hot comb. While I begged for fancy updos, the only styles she seemed to know were pigtails with candy-colored barrettes and cornrows.

My mother’s hands rocked me to sleep as I fought desperately to stay awake past my bed time. She cradled my kid body and rubbed my back until I drifted off into a deep dreamland.

Her hands rubbed my head when the world seemed overwhelming, unfamiliar and unkind. Now as a grown woman, I still long to lay in my mother’s lap and feel her hands sooth away the weariness and worry in my spirit. The cares that often accompany adulthood. Regrettably, it was a place I failed to appreciate once I became a teenager. I was 15 and enamored with boys, basketball games and hanging out with my friends.

The last time I held my mother’s hands she lay dying in a hospital bed. Her nails were still manicured, but her hands were ice cold. I squeezed and rubbed them between my own. The doctors told us there was little else that could be done, and so we gathered in her hospital room to say our goodbyes. This time I rubbed her head and reassured her that all would be well. I promised to be good, keep the house clean and to go to college. She was free to go with God now. I held my mother’s hands tightly as she slipped away into eternity.