I have long red nails. I don't always have them, but I have them now. I look at my hands and I feel like a grown-up lady. They remind me of my mother's hands when I was a child. They were grown-up lady hands. Elegant. Long red nails and an engagement ring and wedding band. Perhaps she also needed long red nails to make her feel adult. It's important to feel adult when you become a mother three days after your seventeenth birthday.
My mother seems to be getting younger now. Since she turned fifty, her face has become young again. Round and chubby. Like a schoolgirl. She no longer has long red nails. But her hands do look older.
My hands look older too. I have always had small sweaty children's hands with short stout fingers dotted with eczema. They still look like hands more suited to finger-painting. But maybe someone who has been finger-painting for a really long time. Growing old at nursery school. Sandpit fingers with grubby fingernails, with dry backs of hands, spotted with age. The toilets are too small and you wish the cubicles had doors. But tiny triangles of cheese-spread sandwiches and orange quarters and banana halves bring comfort.
I used to think my once-upon-a-time almost-mother-in-law's hands were dry and papery from kitchen work and neglect. Now I know that there is not enough rich expensive hand cream to turn back the clock. Clarins, Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, Crabtree and Evelyn, L’Occitane. None of it makes my old children's hands young again. But still I feel in fancy-dress in these red nails.