When my son was born his fingers were the size of small wooden matchsticks. So tiny, so fragile. When I remember how small he was, it is always those tiny matchstick fingers that I see. In my mind's eye I see his tiny newborn hand in mine, and remember how protecting those fragile fingers became my whole world.
As he grew, those fingers became pudgier, learned how to clutch a toy, to hold my hand. I would spend hours gazing down at him as he nursed, looking at that small hand laying on my breast.
Over the coming months the fingers learned to play. To clap. To play peekaboo. To bang on a drum or a xylophone. Those fingers supported him when he crawled, and then held tightly to mine as he took his first halting steps.
The year after that the fingers learned to draw, and to paint, and to dance along as he sang the Itsy-Bitsy Spider and the Wheels on the Bus. Later still they learned to count, and then to write.
With each passing month the fingers grew, in size and in skill. My matchstick baby was now a boy -- growing, learning, becoming stronger and more competent day by day.
He's six now. His fingers can write in two languages, can buckle his rollerskates, can play ping pong, can play cards, and turn a robot into a racecar. They're learning to tie shoes, and use a computer. They're bigger now. More solid. The baby pudge is disappearing, replaced with boyish solidity.
Those hands have always been my touchstone. My yardstick. When I think of how my child has grown since those first moments I think of his hands. More than his length, or his weight, it is his fingers that symbolize his growth. Six is so very big, and yet still so very small. I'm enchanted watching all that his fingers have learned to do, and wait with baited breath to see what they will learn in the years to come.
Someday those fingers will clutch a backpack and leave the house without me. Someday they will be too busy, too grownup to hold mine. Someday the fingers he wants to see entwined in his own won't be mine. And someday, those fingers will be drafted into the army and will have to learn to button a uniform and fire a gun, while all I can do is wait at home thinking of how those tiny matchstick fingers have grown, and pray that they will return home again safely.
I've decided to submit this post for Michelle's (Scribbit's) April Write-Away contest. The theme this month is "growth". I'm really looking forward to reading all the other entries, there are some tremendous writers out there.