My Grandma Myles lived with us when I was a little girl. One of my earliest memories is of her standing in the kitchen making some yummy treat to take to the beach. I was standing behind her watching and waiting to go. She had on a beach cover up and my eye level came right up to the back of her legs. I remember studying the blue and purple veins running like highways up and down her legs.
The strongest part of that memory is the overwhelming feeling of love as I looked at her. She was the most beautiful woman in the entire world. I remember thinking “that is the most beautiful color purple”.
I was a little girl. I was beholding true beauty. It was powerful.
Then I forgot.
I learned that varicose veins are ugly, unsightly and something to be fixed. I learned other things too. Things little girls learn as they grow into women. I learned anything different about you that doesn’t fit the ‘ideal’ shape or size of the women on TV or in the magazines is NOT beautiful. I learned that anything about you that doesn’t fit the ‘ideal’ is something to make you feel shame or embarrassment. Regardless of how many times I heard my mom say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. It didn’t matter. I had unlearned what it meant.
I love to watch people. I looked everywhere but couldn’t find the ‘ideal’ woman walking around the grocery store, dropping off her kids at school, playing at the park, beach or shopping at the mall. Where was she? Where did she dwell? I only saw her in the magazines when I checked out with my groceries. I am guessing those magazine women were thankful for the technology required to make them look ‘ideal’.
My hands are old. They are at least 100 years old. They have thousands of wrinkles, elephant knuckles, age spots and big veins popping out. I never paint my nails because it would look weird on such old hands. My hands will never be found in a magazine of the ‘ideal’. I was embarrassed of these old hands. Until…
I was joking about them one day with my family and my daughter said, “I love your hands. They are one of my favorite things about you”.
The rest of the family chimed in, “Yes!. We love your hands. They show how hard you work. We love them”
Then I remembered. The things about you that are different are the best things about you. The things about you that don’t fit the ‘ideal’, make you, You. You NEED those things. I am guessing God gave them to us on purpose. A gift to us and to the people who love us. Because the people who love you and me, inside and out, love those things the most. If we were just an ‘ideal’ then there would be nothing unique to cherish.
Sometime during those many years of birthing 4 babies a Dr. noticed the many purple varicose veins running up and down my legs and asked if I wanted to fix them. I laughed. His eyebrows shot up and he looked at me with his head to the side. I just said, “No I need them”. He shook his head and rubbed his hands through his hair. I didn’t explain further.
But I want to make sure to fully explain. I tell my girls frequently that their beauty is something that shines from the inside out. That each act of loving kindness increases your beauty. My grandmother had a lifetime of these piled up by the time I knew her. “I need them” these big purple veins and these old hands because I want to earn that kind of beauty. Not in spite of them but because of them. Because they represent me. My children and husband loving my old hands is a sign I am on the right track. And who knows? Maybe after a lifetime of working at loving kindness there will be a little boy or girl who looks at the highway running up and down my legs and says, “That is the most beautiful color purple”.