Las Manos Más Suaves
Old hands are beautiful. Weathered, wrinkled, soft as silk, scarred by the passing of time and countless tasks.
Last Saturday, we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant for breakfast. Los Picos Parilla is the home of the best huevos rancheros in Mesa. There is an older woman who is usually working the cash register. As we went to check out, she wrapped my hands in hers, hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
My mind is immediately awash with memories of other women in my life such as her.
There was Sara, the woman who cared for me while my mother worked. We rented a house next door to her and her husband. I gravitated to her house as there were other children around and always tasty food. If mom couldn’t find me, she knew where to look. My stepfather was still in the picture at the time, and he didn’t like me because I was another man’s child. Sara’s house was my hideaway.
Sara had salt/pepper hair, pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck. Warm brown eyes that lit up when she saw me. She always wore a faded floral bib apron made soft as silk from its many washings, and didn’t speak any English, but we were able to communicate. I was an attentive child and learned the important words. ¿Linda, quieres tortillas, frijoles, y papas con huevos? Sí, por favor. Sara was gentle with me, even nursed me back to health after I contracted the mumps.
In the afternoons I would go there once school was over. She would feed me a hot buttered flour tortilla and a cold glass of orange juice. Tired from her day that started before sun up, Sara would sit in her rocker, invite me into her world, and wrap her weary arms around me. I was content in her ample lap as she offered a shelter of peace and quietude. She caressed my cheek with her weathered hands, I would fall asleep to her voice saying, ‘Linda, que linda’ over and over. Linda, how beautiful, Linda, how beautiful. Sara loved me and I her.
By the time our lease was up on the house, my step dad was gone, and we had to move. I never saw Sara again, but I have never forgotten her.
And then there was Abuelita. I married her grandson and her and the rest of the family were a part of my life for 14 years. Abuela, with her quiet voice, and stout body bent from years of hard work, was the center of the family. Everyone gathered at her house for Christmas, Thanksgiving, all the important holidays. She didn’t speak any English either, but by then I understood enough Spanish to get by. Back then in Texas, you took Spanish in school from the 3rd grade up.
The masa should always be spread on the smooth side of the corn husk. If you try it any other way, you will fail. Abuela was very patient with me as she showed me how to do it the correct way.
Her hands were as soft as pudding and as warm as a toasty oven. Even though she is gone and it has been over 30 years since I last saw her, I remember the gentle touch of her hands.
Last Saturday when the woman at Los Picos touched me, my soul eased and I savored the moment, although brief. The memories flooded in with acute clarity.
I have her to thank for what is, I recently learned, a haptic memory. A haptic memory is information that can be recalled that was originally collected by the sense of touch (tactile sense). This is a type of sensory memory that is collected through feeling or touching something.
I am blessed to have had these women in my life.
And I am blessed that, in my quest for the best huevos rancheros in Mesa, I found this amazing, loving woman.
God works in mysterious ways. He gave me these women to remind me of his love. To remind me of the goodness in the world.
God’s love is present in their hands.
Don’t believe me? Go to Los Picos, order the huevos rancheros with red sauce and fresh off the grill tortillas.
If you’re lucky, you’ll leave with not only a full belly, but with a satisfied soul from the touch of a woman’s beautiful soft hands.
Linda Lee Lyberg