Thursday, July 01, 2010 1:37 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
I’ve been around the neighborhood long enough to bore people with my “used to be” stories: the art gallery that used to be a hardware store, the New Age Bookshop that used to be a video store, the video store that used to sell gourmet food.

Honestly, if not one new “it used to be” ever popped into mind again, I could write the past tense, happily forever, just by reliving the basics: the kitsch shop that used to sell flowers, the leaf-blowers that used to be rakes.

There’s a subtext here, of course, and I’m at the mercy of it: I found a photograph of my husband. Or, Larry how he “used to be.”

I thought about shoving the photo back into the book it fell out of. I don’t want too much history backing up on me, which will surely happen if I stare at Larry too long. After all, I fell in love with him when I was twenty. Larry—so self-directed, so handsome.

I wind up focusing on the photo until my thoughts find their way into the deepest, most stunning places, kindling the most tender feelings I’ve felt in a long time. From my ears to my knees, a thunderbolt of nostalgia. One memory after another. I see love in the photo as clearly as I see my own hand holding it.

I stash it. Unlike most of my friends, I don’t have dozens of framed photographs adorning the shelves of my home. I will one day again, surely. But right now, my work requires I be a tad nomadic, and too many photos sort of short circuits my flow.

I remember when I tried letting all the photos on my hard drive revolve as my screen saver. One by one, my entire past came at me in two second intervals. It drove me bonkers. I’m quite proud of my achievements, the lives I’ve lived. But, I swear, every time I passed my monitor, I had a little heart attack. All that emotion really slowed me down.

Anyway, I’ll forget half of what I saw in the photo if I don’t get on with it: Larry. His hands, specifically. How swollen his knuckles were from building the boat we were to live in. A dory. Our first home. His fingers were the color of wood. New skin grew right over the dirt. His callouses were so thick they added a good half-inch to his palms. If he nicked them, they drew no blood.

And look at that mess of curly hair! No wonder my dad said he looked like Charles Manson.

About a year before the photo was taken, Larry picked me up hitchhiking to the Olympic Hot Springs. I moved in with him a week later. We lived in an old barn in Sequim. It was the eighties.

My most vivid memory of his hands then, in total-lust stage, was how he couldn’t let his hands rub my legs covered in nylon tights without making a crackling sound, or lay in the dark with me on a double sleeping bag, unzipped and opened flat, with hands that prowled easily, without catching on each lofty seam.

That’s how Larry’s hands used to be. I study such things.

Which brings me to Larry’s hands now: Smooth, nick-less as a slab of marble. Around the age of forty, like many the boatbuilder before him, he left the “sail around the world” dream to find work that 1) paid, and 2) let him use his mind as much as his hands.

Larry’s hands are so clean now I call them white-collar-pink.

Either way, in boat building or business, then or now, Larry never wavered from being the kind of man who would never, ever drive a bent nail deeper into the grain of wood just to get the job done.

Rare, huh?

And why, I believe, there is more at work in our marriage than two people trying their best.

Hands. I know you know what I mean.

Mary Lou Sanelli

Mary Lou Sanelli’s latest book is Among Friends.  
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