“Holding Her Hand”

This essay published on Coffee & Crumbs is served up with a little humility. The editor had a lot of suggestions and cuts to the original essay. At first, I bristled. It’s hard to take suggestions, especially from someone you don’t know (self: squirrel that one away for implications in teaching and learning). BUT ultimately, I think she made “Holding Her Hand” stronger.

I love this genre of essay. I’m not sure what it’s called. I think of it as a collection of snapshots–little scenes that are unified around a whole. That’s how memory works for me, anyway. Not a neat and tidy narrative but a smattering of sensory images. I like revisiting them.

When I was a few months away from giving birth to baby number two, we decided we had to get Mae out of our bed. At first, we put the crib beside the bed and I would fall asleep holding Mae’s hand through the bars.

But then we moved her into the next room.

My fingers and wrist fit comfortably through the bars of a crib, but when Mae continued to cry, I had to rub her back or pat her softly. Night after night I held firm: I will sing to you, pat your back, shove both my arms through the bars to encircle you, but I won’t take you out of your bed.

The nights were interminable; after the singing and the patting and many firm Lay down, Maes, each night settled down to this—me, sitting in the dark, humming softly, holding my daughter’s hand as she drifted off and her world slowly shifted underneath her.


Walking next to a preschooler on a sunny day, as her downy blonde hair surrounds her head like a halo, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. She chatters constantly, words and songs trickling out of her mouth as quickly as they enter her head. You need only shorten your stride and slow your pace a little, because she bounces along at a cheerful pace. You hold hands companionably, pausing every now and then to explore a crack in the sidewalk or navigate an oncoming walker. She’s buoyant. She’s bouncy. She’s eager. She’s curious. She’s delightful. And as you look at her upturned face and feel the way her little hand fits so completely in your palm, your heart wells. She’s yours and you love her.

Father’s Day Special

I got the email a month ago about the Father’s Day special on the Moth Radio Hour. My story “The Detour,” would be featured, it said.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to feel.

At first, it brought the heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping, and rubbery-feeling of post performance that I had five years ago when I got up on that Moth Stage. The story slam was incredible. Packed house–they laughed, they gasped, they erupted in applause. I’ve never felt anything like it.

But I also felt the familiar nausea that comes with over-sharing, especially when it comes to my religious beliefs. I will tell you about embarrassing bodily functions all day, but Mormonism–please, don’t ask.

This is also, by far, the worst Father’s Day present for my poor attention-adverse dad. And my ex-boyfriend–well, c’mon. I would be heartless not to worry about him a little, too.

So I am so happy and pleased and feel like my storytelling chops have received a hearty slap on the back. I want to shout it from the rooftops.

AND then go crawl under a rock.


This is why I write

Last week I got to reread “The Dance” as it was republished and this sent me on a reading spree of old essays. There is one called “In the Still of the Night” that tries to illustrate the some “night” moments–moments I revisit in the middle of the night but also moments that happened on nights I won’t forget.

This is the last vignette in the essay and I love it. Not only because it reminds me of one of my favorite places on earth but also because I think it is well-written. The phrase “sun-bleached hay and thickening pond water” is objectively the perfect way to describe the summer night air in Idaho. And I got to write it!

I don’t expect you to love this paragraph like I do. That’s too much to expect, I know. But maybe you’ll think it’s sweet. Or at the very least, you’ll know somewhere in time and space there is a little girl looking out a night window and she is very, very happy.

Before I crawl into bed, I like to sit at the open window of my bedroom upstairs—the one that faces West. The horizon is still a little blue from where the sun set not long ago. But the sky is darkening quickly and stars begin to dot the blackness. The wind blows haphazardly through the big poplars—sometimes with force, mostly with a soft push and pull on the leaves. It reminds me of waves rolling in although at that time I had never seen the ocean. My contact lens are out so my eyes can relax into the fuzzy images of the barn, the arena lights, the fences, the bulk of the trees. I like to breath in the night air—it’s moist and warm with just a hint of chill of night. It smells like sun-bleached hay and thickening pond water.  And this, this is my favorite part: the metronome of the pipe sprinklers. As the wind is erratic and rolling, they are steady and small. Tick, tick, tick, tick. They are the passing of time and the rightness of the world. They are order in chaotic night. They are saying, “Time for sleep. Time for sleep. Stop your thinking. Go to sleep.”

My Cup of Tea

The last couple of weeks I’ve been writing around the love I have of my cup of tea. It may not seem like a big deal–just a little cup of tea–but to me, it’s more. It’s this little rebellion, this thing that I’m not exactly ashamed of but not exactly proud of either. I don’t know so I’ve been chewing on it.

The essay that’s taking shape is one of those…I don’t know what the technical term is, fragmented essays? It is my favorite type of essay to write. I basically revisit three or four important moments in my relationship with tea and see what I can find there.

Here is one of them:

My friend Ryan was dreamy. He was handsome and athletic and fun and smart and also, actually, very nice.

For example: Three of us were on our way to home from a full summer afternoon of cliff jumping and swimming in the river. These are the days that when you are forty you sometimes dream about. Summer heat blowing through the windows, your favorite song playing on the tape deck, and nothing on your mind except for how much fun you just had.

Ryan went into the gas station to pay. When he came out he was carrying three glass bottles. Here I got this for you, he tossed it into the back seat.

It was a Snapple Iced tea.

As we drove away, the boys chatted and laughed in the front seat. The windows were down and the radio was on so I couldn’t hear what they were saying very well. But even if could, it wouldn’t have mattered. I was too panic-y to notice.

I stared at the cold Snapple iced tea on the seat. Peach flavored.

I had never drank a tea before, iced or otherwise. Heck–I think I had never even held one in my hand. It would be so easy. I was thirsty. Unscrew the lid. Hear the pop. Drink the cold, peachy tea. Done.

Ryan didn’t know or care that I was forbidden, yes forbidden, to drink tea. Scott couldn’t have cared. No one would notice.

But I didn’t. Instead I stashed it under the passenger side seat. Deep under the seat where Ryan would never find unless, somehow, he decided to deeply clean the car.

I was supposed to feel proud of myself. Here was a test and I passed it. I stuck to my beliefs  and didn’t drink the iced tea. But victory wasn’t sweet. Instead I felt bad. Deflated. Like I had rejected the basic terms of friendship. We don’t keep secrets. We break bread. We share the good, sweet, peachy things in our lives. He did what a good friend does. I did not.

I prayed he wouldn’t find it or if he did, he wouldn’t remember that I was the one who refused it. Or if he did remember, he would shrug his shoulders and think, “Huh, I guess Mandy doesn’t like peach iced tea. Why didn’t she just say so?”

My First Post

The truth is I have my mother’s hands–overworked, baggy knuckled, a bit bony, sinewy hands. They are cracked, but not dry and they are skinny but not delicate. These hands are tools, not accessories.

I find it a bit poetic that my first post in my new blog is the essay I wrote about my mother. My mom has always been a champion of my writing–squirreling away the various poems and stories I’ve written over the years. She will likely be the only person who checks up regularly on this blog. She is also an artist herself and has discovered her artistic voice later in life. It’s never too late to start making beautiful things, eh, Mom? So this one is for you.


by Amanda Hamilton Roos
Original published in Deseret News: Motherhood Matters: My Mother’s Fingerprints

“What are you, a nurse?”


“Do you work outside a lot?”

“Um, no, not really.”

“A teacher, then?”

“Just a hard-working mom,” I quipped.

“Well, you use too much hand sanitizer or something because, honey, your fingerprints are terrible. They’re unusable! I mean, look at those cracks!”

I looked over at the scanned computer image. I saw the familiar whirls and loopy circles of a fingerprint, my fingerprint. It was true that there were a few lines dissecting those little hurricane patterns, but I didn’t see the problem.

“Is that not what fingerprints normally look like?” I asked, growing increasingly defensive of my apparently mutant fingerprints.

“Oh no! You have way too many cracks! Honey, you’re too young to have hands that look like this. They should be smooth.”

“Well, I need my fingerprints taken. And these are my fingerprints. So, won’t this image work?”

“I just don’t think they’ll accept them. But I’ll send them in.”

And then our conversation turned inward—with the lady behind the counter muttering about how this image would never work and me passive-aggressively whispering to the man behind me, “Well, I can’t be the only one with this problem.”

I have not failed a test in many years, but as I left the fingerprinting place I could sense the distinct taste of failure—a little disbelief mixed with an incensed, whiny it’s not fair—how was I to know you’re supposed to have smooth fingerprints?!

Once in the car, I looked at my hands more closely. Are these old lady hands? Can this problem be solved with the right hand lotion?

The truth is I have my mother’s hands–overworked, baggy knuckled, a bit bony, sinewy hands. They are cracked, but not dry and they are skinny but not delicate. These hands are tools, not accessories.

When I picture my mom, I picture her hands. I see her wiping down kitchen counters after many hours of cooking. I see her hands outstretched over the piano, reaching for a chord. Her hands guide fabric through the sewing machine or they clap and point with a story that she’s telling.

My mom is a doer. Part of this is a symptom of raising seven kids. When I was growing up, she never sat down because there was always something to do. But now that there is far less to do around the house, she still finds things to do. She takes art lessons and sews pajamas for grandkids.

But my mom is not busy just for the sake of being busy.

The other day we were talking on the phone and she mentioned that she was going to a Spanish lesson. “You see, there’s this lady in our church who just moved here and doesn’t speak a lick of English. Imagine how lonely you’d be! I mean, she was quite accomplished in her home country. So I thought, ‘Well, we can try to learn a little Spanish so she doesn’t have to do all the communicating!’ Now a group of us gets together and tries to learn a little. Of course, she’ll have to learn English. It’s really on her. But there’s no reason we can’t try to make it a little easier.”

That’s why she is busy. Because when she sees a problem, she thinks something must be done and she needs to be the one to do it. So she’ll take Spanish lessons or send a heartfelt card or deliver a warm loaf of bread.   

I thought of my mom making that bread in the years that I was growing up. I can’t count the number of times I walked into the kitchen and saw warm loaves cooling on the rack. To me, they just magically appeared. And I never thought about the work involved as I gleefully smeared a thick slice with butter and homemade jam. But now that I’m a mom, I know that she gathered the dough and shaped each loaf, one-by-one, in her hands, over and over again, so I could have a warm, soft, buttery, tangible expression of her love for me.

That’s what her cracked, strong, decidedly un-manicured hands do. They create love. And I hope that’s why my fingerprints are full of cracks, too.

I don’t sew like my mom, but I am trying to make homemade stockings for Christmas this year. Because I learned from her that handmade is best.

I don’t cook all the time, but I do make homemade bread because when I see my daughter gustily spread it with butter and honey, it feels good.

And I when I see something that needs to be done, I look down at my hands and think, Alright, well, what can I do?

They say that one’s fingerprints are completely individual, that no two fingerprints are the same.

But I hope that’s not true. I hope my fingerprints will someday look just like my mom’s. I hope they become cracked and worn from a lifetime of helping and lifting and doing. Because if they do, that will mean that I will have also developed my mother’s heart–her great big, energetic, optimistic, service-rendering heart.  And for that, I would gladly fail any fingerprint test.