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They were the first thing we noticed about her after she was born. They were the first thing I reached for after holding her in my arms, feeling each of her tiny fingers fold themselves around one of my own. Over the last four years, I’ve caught myself numerous times watching her hands. I watch her play with her toys and color with crayons, I watch her tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear and hold the hem of her dress just before she curtsies. I watch her and wonder what she’ll make with those hands of hers.

I remember the uncoordinated movements they made when she was first discovering them, jerky and sudden, and I remember the joy she found when she figured out how to use them. I remember them helping her balance as she crawled and I remember when she held a bottle for the first time. I remember when she gripped and used a spoon successfully and I remember the excitement she had after her mother painted her nails. I remember the first time she reached for my hand unprompted, squeezing slightly so I would squeeze back.

She’s tall enough now she can wash them on her own. She pumps soap into her palm (probably more than necessary, but better safe than sorry) and she rubs her hands together rinsing and drying them. She prefers to have them clean, a trait she more than likely inherited from me. Rarely, will she allow them to be dirty for more than a few seconds… sometimes stopping mid meal to wipe them or wash them again entirely.

There was a day months ago, she helped her mother plant flowers in a bed that lines our backyard. She let the soil separate around her tiny fingers and when she pulled her hands out of the Earth, the freckle in the bend of her left ring finger was covered. She walked over to me and I knew immediately she would request to wash them, but instead she wiped them on my pants. At first, I stepped back in shock trying to swallow the bitter taste of her actions but then I saw her smile.

I could wash my pants and the dirt would disappear and worst case if it didn’t, I could always get another pair. It was her way of sharing with me what she just created. It was her way of getting her hands dirty and bringing them back to show and tell. It was her way to stretch and feel her comfort zone stretch with her and it was her way of providing proof by leaving trails down the front of my legs. She smiled and I smiled back.

Shortly after, we washed those hands. We let the water run over her knuckles and under her nails and we had bubbles up to her elbows until they were clean again. We sat down at the table that night and I watched her weave her fingers together, bow her head and bless our meal. I caught myself watching her hands again wondering what they’ll create next, wondering when they’ll reach for my own again. I wondered what the outcome would be when she allowed them to get dirty once more and how much pride she would find digging deep within to do so. I can't wait to see.

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