Frozen Hands – A Memory With Adrienne

Today is a day in which my family will be drawn together. Not physically and not by speaking on the phone either. At some point today we all will think of her, our mother. It is her birthday today, November 11, and I often remarked to my friends that it is a perfect day for a mother to have her birthday. The children have no excuse to forget. But I did one year…

It was a day that was like any other for me. By evening I was settling into a quiet time with my son when the phone rang. It was her. We chatted around a few small talk subjects. Then she said —  did you forget something today?  Hmmm like what?  Mystified. Then oh my God it’s Remembrance Day! My apologies flooded forth to her.  No excuse, no excuse.

Like the mother hen waiting for all her chicks to come home to the coop, that was her waiting by the phone until 9 pm for the last wayward one pecking at something and not paying attention that it was nightfall and to come home. She had six spread across the country.

My mother’s hands scared my childhood friends. They’d ask me in whispers what is wrong with them? Well, I explained…

When she was a baby living on the farm way up north there was a fire in the farmhouse. Her family put it out but it took a long time. My mom’s older sister held her in her arms wrapped in blankets. But she kept running in and out of the smoldering building to try and keep her warm, but mom had her tiny hands frozen, nearly losing them. As a result they developed with a deformity, swollen stubby fingers. But strong. Doctors who examined her throughout her adult life would notice her hands and question her,  “Did you have your hands frozen as a child?” It was a common enough experience before central heating. Northern Alberta winters are cruel, freezing exposed flesh in mere minutes.

I remember her unpinning frozen sheets from the outdoor clothes line. Hard cardboard white squares. These hands pounded bread dough and then pinched perfectly sized pieces off, rolled them into round balls and set on greased cookie sheets. They snipped our bangs when they grew too long. They sewed a first prize winning dress that I modeled in front of the Ladies Auxiliary. They held my baby sister and with just the amount of force patted her back as mom would know just when the gassy burp would escape. Those hard looking hands would hold her bottle to her lips and look soft and tender only in rare moments like that.

Funny how we remember certain things about people. You would notice my mother’s hands straightaway and you’d probably want to ask me why they looked the way they did. And I would tell you. My mother was a lot of things and wasn’t always the mother I longed her to be, but she was a survivor almost from the day she was born.


Read more Adrienne, click her tag.

2 Responses to “Frozen Hands – A Memory With Adrienne”
  1. Ken Steen says:

    Good story once again! Thank you=)

  2. Adrienne says:

    Thank you for reading and responding, Ken. Means a lot to me!

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