Loving Hands

Loving Hands

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Loving Hands

A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.
~Victor Hugo

I lay confused on the crinkly white paper that covered the emergency room bed. The circuits in my brain weren’t connecting properly. I was aware that a man had walked into my apartment in New York City through my unlocked front door and brutally attacked me, but I couldn’t absorb it. In raping me, he seemed to have eviscerated me, too. I was empty, a shell.

“Hi, Sweetheart,” I heard someone say through the haze. I turned toward the door. It was Mom. Suddenly tears surged.

“Hi, Mom,” I said, my voice cracking.

How did she find me? I knew that my mom must have driven into New York City from where she lives, a suburb about an hour away. I didn’t know how she knew where I was, in what hospital, in what room. The last thing I remembered is that I had called her from my apartment while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I had called and left a tearful message on her answering machine, something to the effect of: “Mom, I’ve been attacked. Come quick.”

When I was growing up, my mom and I had a bedtime routine. As an only child of a single mom, most nights were the same. Mom would open my closet door and an automatic light would offer a sliver of brightness. She would turn off the two lights in my room while I jumped into bed. She would pull up my covers, or if they were already up, she would tuck in the sheets around me. If I felt sick or sad, or sometimes just because she wanted to, she would sit down on the edge of my bed—a simple sign that she would stay a little bit longer. Oh, how I loved that! She would smile and tell me that she loved me. She would push the hair from my eyes and look at me in a special way. She’d cock her head, silently measuring how much she loved me. These were also the times she would easily agree to give me a back rub when I asked. I would quickly turn over, smiling inside, plump with her affection, her hands filling me with love.

The night I was attacked, after I had been swabbed, tested, vaccinated and had six vials of blood drawn, Mom took me back to her home—my childhood home. It was almost midnight when we pulled into the garage. I climbed out of the back seat and closed the door. How long had it been since I was driven in my mother’s car, she in the driver’s seat and me buckled safely in the back? These were the things I could think about.

After we entered the house, she offered me food. Silently, I shook my head and walked straight to my old bedroom. Exhaustion, shock, adrenaline, and the various medicines given to me at the hospital had depleted me.

In bed, I rolled onto my side, pulled up my knees, and turned into the smallest human ball I possibly could. I wanted my body to disappear. All the rest of me was seemingly gone. Yet in all the quiet and emptiness, pain exploded within me. Darting through my veins, weaving through my mind, it was only physical weakness that kept me inert. I begged God to let me explode so that I did not have to feel the pain.

I became aware of Mom’s hand gently moving across my back. I thought about her sitting there, on the edge of my bed, just like she always had. Slowly I unfurled myself from the fetal position. Instead of the pain, I focused on her hand. A hand that connected us. A hand that somehow eased the hurt. I realized then that the awful man had taken so much from me that day, but not everything. Not my life, and not my mom. And, like always, mom knew just what to do. It might have been a few years, but I was still her little girl, and she remembered.

~Jennifer Quasha

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