Hard working hands

I spent the month of January building inside the studio, the production studio.  I enclosed my office, giving me more privacy from the foot traffic traveling from mudroom to the upstairs, and built a recording room, for video and music needs.  I had been thinking about it for about 18 months, or ever since we added the 3 bedrooms and bath upstairs for the 3 oldest children.  I felt in some ways my productivity dropped – where I once was alone in the studio for the duration of my “work time”, now I shared it with others.  And being the easily distractible person I am, constant motion behind me randomly throughout the day was a problem.  At first I considered getting rid of the kids, but then I wondered who would do the dishes.

There’s something I really enjoy about working with my hands: forming wall, wiring, drywall, mudding and sanding (my least favorite parts), painting and flooring, then hanging doors and adding the fixtures.  I enjoy building.  I enjoy creating something out of raw materials, bringing the potential of something into the reality of what I know it can become.  It satisfies something deep within me.

Whenever I work with my hands I think back to my Shoney’s days.  It was 1988, and I was a waiter.  One of my customers was a woman I had seen there often enough, so when she sat at my table that afternoon, I decided to ask about her job.  She was a nice-looking lady, but she had a tough look about her, like a cowgirl.  Sure enough, she worked down the road on a horse farm.  She managed the stables, feeding and tending to the horses, rode the horses, and maintained the premises.  Since I have always fancied horses, and loved the idea of riding one, I asked if she needed some help – free labor, of course.  She asked to see my hands, taking them in hers as if to read my palms, then told me, “These aren’t working hands.  They’re soft.”  Soft?  Not working hands?  Was this woman blind?  I’m a man (man/boy, at least; I was 20 years old).  I laughed it off, dropped the check, and went to tend to other tables.

I couldn’t get that interaction off my mind.  Was she right?  Do I have girlie hands?  I couldn’t stand the thought of having anything other than man’s hands, so what was I going to do?  What could I do with my hands in order to impress the next cowgirl I came across?  It troubled me.

To say I never thought about it again after that would be a lie.  In fact, I think often about that day – as in every time I pick up a hammer, fire up the chainsaw, grab a shovel, change a tire, hang a sheet of drywall, turn a wrench, roll up the back door of my grip truck, or a laundry list of other activities.  I thought about it when I was across seas during the Gulf War, when I worked with a barricade company, when I built my kid’s first playground set, and when I first broke ground to plant a garden.  I think about it every time I do anything with my hands.

I think I’m now ready to meet another cowgirl.