My mother taught me oak leaf from sugar maple, with its five pointy lobes, when I was five. She’d spread her painted nails, gaudy veins branching off the midrib. Once smooth like yours she’d say, her five metacarpals blading through gauzy skin. Her hands could knead, could roll and crimp—mandelbroit, rugelach, apple pie. Forget about strudel, her fat mother-in-law scoffed, slipping her own padded knuckles under tissuey dough to stretch and pull until papery thin, my mother’s knuckles sharp as a knife plunging holes into a Naked City corpse.
Once smooth like yours, I tell my granddaughter, her five-year-old hands still baby-fat padded, mine barely veiled by tissuey skin, crazy-quilt of veins and cracks, burnt-brown as autumn leaves at my door, leaves preparing for winter leaving, crepuscular, desiccated, dust to dust, my mother, my fat grandmother, me.