A pianist since the age of eight, a working musician since 14, I had never let my fingernails run free, always keeping them short under strict orders from my legendary piano teacher. “I wonder what your nails would look like….” my milk-eschewing mother always wondered.
The summer of my nineteenth year, we found out. Given a temporary reprieve from intense piano, along with an office job, my nails grew long and strong and perfectly-colored. Women would ask me where I got my French tips done, and I’d mumble, “Well, I guess heaven, or the genetics store?” I never even painted them!
The Tuesday before the biggest day of my life, I marched into a salon and made the lady gasp. “What do you eat? I need to know your secret!” as she gave me my first and only manicure.
Expected masculinity aside, our hands looked perfect. Our wedding rings, purchased thanks to the Air Force and a sacrificed cow, shone with newness. We looked like a pair straight off the pages of Child Bride magazine.
The days dribbled by slowly as our hands found more work to do than cameras to pose for. Months passed, words flew, foundations poured, palms shook with anger, actions chosen, a marriage built.
Our hands and rings began to lose shine and perfection. Our entire bodies changed as new life and room and relationships were formed.
Our feet crisscrossed states, and then down the jetways of dozens of airplanes that conquered a few oceans. We sat on free couches, then carefully budgeted-for-from-the-BX sofas, my toes curled under, his feet centimeters from mine. Our twenty tootsies entered and exited running shoes thousands of times, often together, sometimes with blisters at the finish line.
Nick doesn’t really love feet, but I loved the sight of ours taking a walk — together, even when our faces didn’t reflect love. I cried when his walked away from mine in the middle of the night, destined for months and thousands of miles away from me and the little lives we had created together, and rejoiced when I once again saw his Nikes carelessly tossed wherever he happened to land. Because that meant he was with us.
His hands always find mine, or his, or hers.
The night before he left this time, we went on a much-needed date. Bowling with those loving hands, but first, a trip to Fred Meyer for required socks. A stop by the jewelry store with the sign advertising free jewelry cleaning. A grasping of hands, now naked, as we wait. A small thrill inside a few minutes later as this man slips a perfect, small ring on my finger again, a glint in his eye.
Nick’s hands, I must admit, are the least-attractive thing about him. There is no need for him to put his 1973 Bulova watch-modeling hand in a glass bubble, because, well — the company would never hire him.
But when I stop to think about all they have done in the past 11 years, I want more than anything to lace my fingers through his.
Trick-tossing a Frisbee my way on a picnic. Pathetically attempting to remember “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic on the piano. Arranging flowers he’d just purchased in a vase. Building our first fence, and then our deck. Snapping “us-ies” with the Mediterranean in the background. Bouncing back in surprise as he felt our unborn Tai-Bo champion practice. Tucking a strand of wayward hair behind my ear. Caressing our babies’ newborn curls. Massaging my back, not as bad as Monica, but not much better. Lightly grabbing my waist as he walks by, continually claiming ownership of a girl he wanted before he could drive.
So maybe we didn’t do something as visually momentous as our tenth anniversary. Maybe our hands haven’t seen anything more than clippers and lotion in more than a decade. Maybe our rings needed extra-long in that Fred Meyer shaker machine because we’ve worked and lived and played hard and loved a little more than usual.
Maybe our hands don’t look like they did 11 years ago. Our entire bodies, even, changing with the tidal wave of years.
I think our four hands look even better — perfectly melted into the shape of the other’s, cupped wide for the future blessings of a new daughter, quick to block the sun of hard times from the other’s face, stretched to apologize, shivering with laughter soon after, clasped on a new adventure.