Working Hands

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For many years, I worked interviewing people in their homes. The first 11 were not easy: My presence was not welcome because I was investigating reports of child abuse or neglect. The second 25 focused on entirely different criteria: Returning children to their families. One thing I learned became a motto: Don’t skip steps. The other thing I learned was to wait until I heard the most important thing, the thing that would guide all the rest of the things I would say.

Among the Things I Planned But Have Not Yet Finished is the podcast For the Girls of Laredo, written about here some many months ago. One hates to blame COVID for everything, but I think I could make a pretty good case if I don’t have to supply details. I haven’t given up the idea, and with this being Women’s History Month (International Women’s Day March 8, 2021), the concept still rings true. (Google’s animation on the 21st didn’t feature women in traditional roles, even a single one and not a nod to motherhood, which I found wrong, thereby making my own project seem off.) But that means my podcast will be apt.

In fact, I have done one interview, with the inspiration for the podcast, my daughter-in-law who builds furniture and decks. I had a good script, and things were going along fine. One of the questions, however, yielded an answer that was “the moment” described above.

“Many words describe difficulties: hurdles, barriers, closed doors, glass ceilings. Has anything stood in your way? How did you overcome that?”

Much of the rest of the interview had been expected, more or less. Her response to thing question was unforgettable. It’s the basis of the poem that follows. But I added more than the skill we were talking about (building furniture) because more women are in Hobby Lobby than in Harbor Freight. There are certain similarities, I realized. It was originally posted with a group I’m in (MoPoWriMo) which supplied the goal of a poem a day for February. Not necessarily a good poem, but I’ll quit talking and just let you read the thing.

Hobby Harbor

Is there swagger entering Harbor Freight,

More than Hobby Lobby?

The banks of carabiners—all sizes and colors—

No more tools than this year’s silks and dried

In tall black tubs, row by row.

Binders?

Hot glue guns

Soldering irons

Canvas?

Stretched for painting

Loose for protecting

Cutters, sealers, good lights,

Magnetic screw/pin holders.

 

One day, a selection of sawblades

Arrayed before me as I tested hefts and holds

(Having squinted elsewhere assessing 2x4s),

A man shopping for replacement hacksaw blades

Found the day’s deal, 10-pack on for $2.99,

But he stayed, looking at me, and then asked,

“What are you doing?”

Took some courage, I’d think.

So I explained my project, the current situation,

The current problems.

He stood silent a second or two, then asked,

“You know what you’re doing?”

Beyond courage there.

I nodded, said sure,

And without pausing this time, he asked,

“Let me see your hands.”

His just looked, didn’t touch, while I explained

This scar (from batting a kid away from danger,

That, electric nail gun. No missing fingers, I joked.

Working hands.

He nodded, said, “Hmmm. Good job”

And walked away. I see where I might have been offended.

I wouldn’t have asked him what he was doing if I found him

In the beading supplies at my other haunt.

It’s good to know two worlds, two lingos,

Neither better, both fraught.

A good pride, I hope, when I have proven worthy

And turn to making moons.

 

 

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