Home » Body Language » Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Do you remember this childhood pantomime, oddly enough sung to the tune of  There is a Tavern in the Town?

I tried, unsuccessfully, to find the origin but since it’s not the point of the post I didn’t pursue it.    I do have a hypothesis though. I think the folks that spent too much time at the Tavern in the Town came home tired and invented a game to their favorite tune to wear the wee ones out before bedtime.

Apparently there’s also a version, British ?, designed to bring civility to the rhyme with the added verse: Ankles, Elbows, Feet and Seat/It’s My Body; sung to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down. Possibly not British after all. It sounds more like something an Irishman from the Tavern would sing to spite the British…

Regardless, the key to this activity is the crucial body part never mentioned in the song, hands. The points of body recognition and coordination are demonstrated by using your hands. I’ve been looking and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of  print space devoted to hands. We’re naturally more enamored with faces and figures and even feet.

I don’t get the foot thing at all. I’ve often heard people say they have ugly feet and I agree. I’ve never seen a lovely foot. Feet are strange-looking, anatomically amazing, necessities. Feet are props. Literally. I realize I may be in the minority with this opinion. If everyone held feet in such low regard, pedicurists and toe ring makers would be out of business.

Hands, on the other hand, are telling. You can learn so much about a person from watching their hands. We work with our hands, we talk with our hands, we teach with them, touch with them. An entire language has been developed just for hands. Clearly hands tell stories you could never get from a foot.

People even take out insurance on their hands. Not J.Lo of course, but  hand models and violinist and surgeons. As for me, I have homely hands. I’ve never had a manicure, my veins protrude and my knuckles are swollen and bent with arthritis (just the regular kind, not rheumatoid). The thing is, I have exactly the hands I wished for.

I decided when I was really little that whatever I looked like when I grew up, the one thing I was definite about was that I wanted to have hands that looked just like my Mother’s. I always thought she had the most beautiful hands. Mom was actually a beautiful woman, and it might have been wiser to wish for her hair that never turned gray or her face or her figure, but I always loved her hands.

I told her that once, watching her scrub the garden dirt off her hands with Comet. She smiled at me and said, “Oh Honey, you don’t want to have ugly hands like these.” She only saw the swollen knuckles and joints, the short nails that often split, the high riding veins.

But I watched her and I watched her hands and I knew they were beautiful. They were always in motion: weeding and picking; shelling peas and snapping beans; threading needles and arranging flowers; kneading dough and rolling out noodles and pie crusts; wiping tears and clasped in prayer.

These were the hands that were never too busy to hold mine when my knees were scraped or my heart was bruised. These hands picked up book after book every nap and bedtime. They tucked me in when I was little and waved goodbye when I left for college. These were the hands I was dread to let go of the night she died, as if by holding on tight, I could make her stay with me a little longer.

My Mother’s hands were a reflection of her spirit. Working or comforting, her hands were such a medium of love and generosity. I got my wish. I have my Mom’s hands. I think it’s the only physical feature I have of hers. These are not Prell shampoo commercial hands, my Mother’s and mine. It’s a funny feeling sometimes to look at my hands and see hers. I wish I had more of her heart. Maybe someday I’ll grow into these hands of mine that look so like hers.

“Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.” ~Carl Jung


4 thoughts on “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

  1. Oh my goodness! I love the way you portray your love for your MOM! It reached to the depths of my heart and I thanked God for your talent to paint such a picture with words. I happen to have my sweet Great-Grandmother’s hands. I remember holding her hand and playing with her wedding ring, spinning it around on her finger during Sunday services. She was the most impacting woman in my life. I love her and I miss her all these years later. Like you with your Mother’s hands, I have her’s. The older I get, the more they look just like hers. Age can be a beautiful thing! Thank you for sharing.

    • Well, hello Darla, and welcome to Fork!
      You certainly had to go back a ways to find this post! You must be the reason my stats were so oddly off yesterday. 😉
      What a lovely anecdote about your grandmother. Thank you for sharing it. Eyes tell us much about a person, but so do their hands.
      ~ Debbie

  2. My hands also look like Mother’s. The biggest compliment I have ever gotten, is”You are just like your Mother”. Oh how I wish that were true. We are so fortunate to have had her, but it is also veryhard to live up to her standards. You are a remarkable woman! She is proud of you as am I!
    Love and Miss you!!!

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