Fruit and flower

The six-year-old granddaughter asked what a heart attack was which got us talking about the function of the heart to pump blood to every part of the body. To illustrate, I showed her the veins on my hand. They’re raised and bluish and easy to see. Then we looked at her hand where there are vein-lines too, but narrow and deep under smooth skin, barely visible.

“Mine aren’t __” she began, and I could tell she was searching for a word that meant hers were better without saying so exactly. “Sticking out as much,” I supplied.

Attraction has a hierarchy when it comes to hands: young beats old. The girl’s hands are so perfectly contained and formed, so perfectly new, so clearly superior. They aroused wistfulness in me.

I remembered something, though, a couple of lines from George Orwell’s 1984 that I once copied into my notebook of quotes. Just before arrest, Winston has a moment of insight about the old washerwoman he sees in the yard below. Never before had it occurred to him that her work-rough turnip-like body could be beautiful:

“But it was so, and…why not? [Her] body…bore the same relation to the body of a girl as the rose-hip to the rose. Why should the fruit be held inferior to the flower?”