Hands of My Mother


Last year I was listening to the Kacey Musgraves song "Mother" and found it touching. I read about how she'd come to write it in a striking instagram caption...

"I got a text from my mom. It made me miss her. It made me think about her hands. Hands that carry out the vision her imagination brings to canvas with her beloved paints and brushes. Hands that find treasure in found junk. Hands dirtied by the East Texas soil. Hands that held me. And I found the thought of this cycle overwhelming, sad, and beautiful; me sitting there in Tennessee missing my mom in Texas who’s sitting there missing her mother who passed away several years ago. And it will go on and on."

I thought about my mom, who for the past several years has been far away from me. I thought about her hands; hands that throughout my childhood were used to build and fix and create things. She'd spend a month building something herself before paying someone else to do it. I thought about the way her hands were so warm when she held me, yet so strong and powerful. This dichotomy is one of my favorite things about my mom.

I've been thinking about all of this for more than a year now, and as in other thoughts I have about the tension between that which is technical and that which is soft and human, I thought about the long line of women who led to my mom, and her to me. I thought about the life they'd given me.

I've been thinking, too, about the other things they've passed down. My grandma's anxiety, my other grandma's rosy round cheeks, the unattainable starkness of my grandmother's blue eyes, the calm warmth of my mother's hazel eyes.

My family's lineage is tracked by paternal last names, something that feels an act of erasure. When I think about the non-symbolic aspects of following my family tree, I can't help but to feel the love of generations of women coursing through me.

Perhaps in the footprints of others' traditions, I decided to create a textile celebrating these women as an act of gratitude.



I decided to use macrame to knot together a family tree. Each hex nut represents a different person, beginning with my grandmother's grandmother and working on down. I chose to use hex nuts because of my mom's handiness. I didn't expand the family trees of nodes outside of my grandmother and her daughters because there wasn't enough room, and while there are also women I feel grateful for on the paternal sides, I wanted to celebrate this bloodline of women, so paternal nodes are not given other context. On each maternal node, I fastened colored yarn to carry through and be distributed to each node below it, so me and all of my cousins carry the yarn from the node of my grandmother's grandmother, her mother, her, and our own mothers.

I wasn't sure how to handle my stepfather, so I put his node right next to my mom's; he's had such a huge role in my life, too.

Macrame with hex nuts as beads has an unnecessary harshness to it, so after forming the tree I hand-wove soft yarn in the empty spaces, ending with the generation above me to leave space for what might come. The top is lined with light blue yarn symbolizing the generations above that aren't represented.


The result is something soft and heavy; I'd have used different colors if I had access to them, but I used yarn I bought with my mom a couple of Christmases ago.

a woven family tree


The physical remnants left on the textile carry meaning in that this line is not done with. My mom's node emits enough yarn that maybe someday I can add hex nuts for her grandchildren. Of course, this also only highlights biological connections, but it's wonderful to think, too, about the lives touched by all of the women before me.

I won't see my mom until the pandemic has subsided, but I'll give this to her when I do. I really miss her and am beginning to cry.

When I sat perched on my couch hunched over and weaving yarn throughout the macrame, I saw the light from the window behind me shining on my hair in the reflection of the television. Normally it's brown, but in the light it has a redness akin to that of my mom's red hair.

And as I was sitting there, staring at my hands and thinking of my mother (a la Kacey Musgraves), I thought about my mom's beautiful hair and the way it frames her face. I thought about everything she's given me, an innumerable number of things, and all I could feel was so much gratitude and love.

my mom my mom on water me and my grandma

-cb 👩‍💻