Sunday, January 14, 2024


 Some people have hands that look like they’ve never done a day’s work in their lives. Their fingers are long and slim, their nails are manicured, and they probably could not pick up a five-pound bag of potatoes if they tried. I am not one of those people.  I lost the habit of using nail polish when I opened Atelier Ivaan, and I never picked it up again. Polishing jewellery is filthy work. If you survive a session on the polishing machine without black grime under your nails, you’re not polishing hard enough. 

Jewellery polishing compound comes in various grades.  The rough grade is called Tripoli. The finer grade is called Rouge.  To complicate matters, there’s red Rouge and green Rouge: red for polishing yellow gold and green Rouge for polishing white gold, and for silver. There are other colours, for polishing Platinum and other metals, but let’s leave it there, because all you need to know is that it turns black, and that which doesn’t embed itself in your fingers ends up inside your nose. This will horrify you, the first time you realize it. After that, you accept that this is just a part of life.

I used to have thin, pliable fingernails.  By contrast, Ivaan had nails that resembled a coal miner’s. But once I took over the business, my nails grew thicker and less flexible. My fingers changed too. They’ve always been strong and substantial, but nowadays they are even more so.

I marvelled at the slender fingers of women who were shopping for an engagement ring. Honestly, sometimes I felt like saying, “Come back when you’ve put a few miles on those fingers”.  And I steered them toward rings that had some negative space on the reverse that I could use to enlarge the ring in a couple of years (or babies).

A few years ago, just before the Covid-19 pandemic, I  consulted a hand surgeon who diagnosed trigger finger on the middle and fourth fingers of my right hand. Those fingers would no longer open and close without encountering an obstacle. The surgeon offered the operating room for an immediate procedure if I was willing. “You’ll have some scars on your palm afterwards”, he warned, but added that I was very unlikely to get a job as a hand model anyway. Point taken! He operated, bandaged me up, and injected enough painkillers that I was able to drive my manual transmission car home without feeling a thing.

Then Covid hit.  I was not able to attend the hospital for hand therapy due to the lockdown. Slowly my hand healed. Once the bandages came off, I noticed my fingers could no longer open completely. But the hand functioned quite well, and I got used to joking that I had one hand and one claw: quite useful for dredging the ponds. Dr. A didn’t think that was quite as funny as I did. I have no idea why. After all, he and I had bought our rural properties at the same time, and we were regularly exchanging funny stories about being newly-minted farmers.  

I was crushed in the spring of 2023 to receive a letter from Dr. A, saying due to the effects of Long Covid, he was retiring from his surgery practice. It was particularly hard because I’d been his patient for 20 years, since he was injecting my thumb joints with steroids, to undo the damage done by pushing Ivaan’s wheelchair.

It’s been a long time since I pushed a wheelchair, and I’m thinking of going back to the hospital for hand therapy to straighten out my claw.  It’ll be hard, returning to the “scene of the crime”, but at least I can feel grateful that my fingernails are finally clean. 

No comments:

Post a Comment