My heritage is etched on my hands. The fingers are short and crooked, the veins knotty and blue. The backs of my hands are peppered with age spots and have been since I was in my thirties. These are not pretty hands but strong and proud, echoing the language of my Mother’s family who worked as share croppers in Virginia for many lifetimes.
The hands of my Father’s family are long and straight. They reflect a heritage of musicians, businessmen, educators, ladies who stayed at home and did needlework. These are the hands I longed for in my youth, the hands of elegance and grace. But what I was only marginally aware of was that most of my Father’s family had a skin affliction and their hands reflected this affliction, a condition known as eczema. In my late twenties, I suffered my first eczema flare up and these crooked, worker hands of mine have suffered from eczema ever since.
After thirty years of eczema, I am lucky, I have learned the rhythms of the disease and how to live with it. During the dry winter months, my fingers often support bandages, one, two sometimes more, to protect sensitive areas and to hide the cracking skin from others. In the humid southern summers, the eczema goes mostly dormant. I am no longer ashamed of my hands, they are the hands of generations of people who shaped who I am.
One of the side effects of eczema is strong, hard nails (go figure). At one point in my life, I avoided painting them so as not to draw attention to my hands. I have long since thrown that “rule” away. Currently I am loving essie Spin the Bottle, which is a white based neutral polish, light and fresh for spring. I am also wearing a silver bangle my husband purchased for me on our first trip to Peru (2004).
Hope you find strength in your heritage! Thanks for reading.