The circumstances are no longer clear in my mind as this happened probably 40 years ago, but one part of the incident's memory is vivid for me.
It was a winter afternoon and my mother, Irene, and I were sitting at the dining room table talking after we worked together on some household chores. She held her right hand next to mine for comparison.
The hands looked eerily similar, both quite small. We both had middle fingers that curved to the right and were longer than our ring fingers.
But there was a huge difference. My teenage hand was unscarred and unlined. Her 40-something hand had nicks, creases and marks of age.
What I recall most about this is what she said to me: "I never want your hands to look like mine. That's why you're going to college."
At 14 or so at the time, college wasn't a priority yet but both my parents made sure I knew that it wasn't a matter of if I was going to college but where.
Neither of my parents had the opportunity to go continue their education after high school. Each came from large families - my dad was one of 12 kids and my mom one of eight - and grew up during the Great Depression. Each was incredibly intelligent and well read, but neither was able to go to college for financial reasons.
But they were determined that their children would have that chance.
Which is why now, at an age older than my mother's at the time of our hand comparison, my hands tell a different life story than hers did.
My mom's hands showed the difficulty of her youth, doing odd jobs to help put food on the table after her father lost his garage business during the Depression. Her hands bore some scars from scrapping with the kids in her neighborhood because, as my Uncle Bob told me once, "Your mom was little but she packed a big punch. Nobody wanted to mess with her."
The struggles of her childhood were shown in my mom's hands.
My mom's hands bore the evidence of years of using wringer washers, hauling clothes to the backyard lines to dry even in the depths of winter during the first years of her marriage. Her hands kneaded bread, shoveled snow, scrubbed floors and performed myriad household tasks without the luxury of household conveniences. Those came later.
She often told me of being stranded for days with three small children (my older sister and two older brothers) while my dad worked out of town. She was kept at home because the family had just one vehicle at the time. She didn't even bother getting a driver's license until I was in fifth grade. She took driver's ed at night and earned her license, joyfully driving whenever she got the chance once our family had more than one vehicle.
My mom never complained about what she endured. She was the happiest person I've ever known.
She and my dad made sure their children had everything they ever wanted. And my hands show that, still relatively unscarred and youthful, because of parents who went above and beyond for their family.
On my worst days, my hands serve as a reminder to me of how truly blessed I am and how easy my life has been so far.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is rprusi@miningjournal. net.