Erica R. Hendry

Washington DC

Of all the obvious similarities between my paternal grandmother and I—our incredible height, long legs, and nose, among others—people often mentioned our hands first. They’re almost identical, save the 63 years between us: Long and delicate with strong nails, slim fingers and a certain curve that suggests elegance and grace (Don’t be fooled: I’m deceivingly clumsy).

You should hand model, people would say. Aside from that outrageous suggestion (no offense, hand models of the world), this always made my grandmother laugh. Why on earth are people looking at our hands?

I think the same thing. But it’s funny:  Some of my earliest memories are watching hers race across the keys of her Steinway upright piano.

“You’ve got my piano hands,” she’d croon to me as I learned to play, three years with her, 10 years in formal training, another four earning a degree. Compared to many people (with the exception, of course, of the likes of mechanics and farmers), I’ve spent an unusually long time just staring at my fingers. By extension, I spent a lot of time looking at hers. Neither of us were ever much for rings. She wore her wedding ring, of course, and as an Irish girl, she’d always worn a Claddagh ring, long before she was married and long after my grandfather died. Though they clicked on the keys when she played — a faux pas for which I’d be reprimanded as I advanced in my own study — she never took them off.

Earlier this year, after she died, the ring became mine. Clicking and all, I leave it on: Whenever I play, we’re still playing together.

Originally posted on The Kojo Nnamdi Show Blog on occasion of the Worn Stories segment, available here:

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