Tuesday, November 16

hands across the nation

I had two new phone messages on Saturday afternoon.

"Hello. This message is for Finneas. This is Fiona, and I am a short, attractive, well-dressed...little arm; and I am looking to go on a date, and wondered if you would call me back..."

The message continued on with my friend N
ichole breaking into uncontrollable laughter which continues, recorded and unremitting for the next four minutes. The next message was mostly just Nichole laughing. I think maybe raising three children under the age of seven is getting the best of her.

I was afraid it would come to this...not that Nichole would lose her mind...but that Finneas would eventually be getting romantic proposals.

And I've got more issues...primary
on the list is an inability to return phone calls in a timely manner or at an hour when the recipient of my call might actually be available. Which made it an act of momentous significance that I caught my friend Joy in Pittsburgh at a grocery store buying Redi Whip.

"I wanted to talk to you about something," she says, "You know how your little arm's name is Finneas?"

I nod to the phone receiver.

"Does your big arm have a name?"

I admit that it does not. Joy points out the inconsistency and inequity of the situation. Then we talk about how
she is caring for her eight-month-old son, breastfeeding, working full-time, volunteering at church, and currently planning a Thanksgiving dinner for fifteen people at her house.

I'm left wondering how my arms are even on the radar for these moms. They have, arguably, the hardest job on earth, impacting the wellbeing of the next generation, and I'm sitting
here writing about my arms. Something is not right.

I guess I should have Finneas fitted for a suit to fit his social life. But I've said it before, naming appendages is not my forté, nor does it come naturally. If the large, big, strong arm is to have a name, it will have to come from you, my readers.


I have a vague memory from childhood
in Philadelphia, of one day when people held hands across the city, from city to city, all across the country. I don't remember why they did this; to a child, reason is always secondary. But I was captured by the concept that you could hold a person's hand, who was holding another person's hand, who was holding another person's hand, in some way, literally touching a person on the other side of the country...or was it the world? Simple, but kind of unimaginable.

This week, I heard about my arms from Maryland to Pittsburgh. Basically the same thing. Right? Interesting bit of trivia...Pittsburgh is the most often misspelled city in the U.S. And I thought Albuquerque was hard...wait, is Albuquerque in
the U.S.? Please advise, because I am having the darnedest time convincing people that I don't live in Mexico.

My train of thought, after many unrelated detours, was nicely tied up yesterday with this:

Come, children, let us go
We trav
el hand-in-hand;
Each in his brother finds his joy
In this wild stranger land.

The strong be quick to raise

weaker when they fall;
Let lo
ve and peace and patience bloom
In ready help for all.

G. Tersteegen

And I've been thinking a lot about how important this is, reaching out to love. I think
Jesus said something to that effect; that it is the most important thing.

Literally speaking, this is a challenge for me. I'm shy to offer my small arm to another person, fear
ing it may not be welcome [refer to numerous baby-scaring incidents]. I'd rather dissolve into the carpet and get trampled by a wedding conga line, than link up. Whenever possible, I choose to be the caboose.

Most dreaded is the invitation to join a circle of hands. Generally I find myself to the right of someone feeling equally awkward, who, after a moment's pause, lays a hand on my shoulder or pulls me into a half hug, leaving the impression that we are more intimately connected than the rest of the circle. Of course, this wasn't a problem when I found myself to the right of my crush in a high school circle.

Perhaps it's a strange psychological twist that holding a hand seems particularly intimate to me. It's different from a hug or even a kiss, either of which can be casual or passionate. Hand-holding indicates a different status, belonging...dare I say, commitment. I've never felt comfortable holding a man's hand, never reached that kind of commitment in love outside my relations. Then again, maybe my hand-holding weirdness comes from a secret fear that I should actually be committed. Sometimes I see the men in white coats coming.


I'd joined the end of a dance procession at church, when I was surprised by a light tap on my shoulder. An adolescent girl reached out and grasped Finneas, who seemed equally startled and pleased. She was unaware of the boundary of awkwardness; also, most likely unaware that my small arm has a name. But her touch was more than physical, and I didn't mind one bit.