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Viewpoint: Aunt Sarah’s Hands

By Dennis Edwards

Editorial Columnist

New Journal and Guide

I reached for Aunt Sarah Conaway’s hand as a prelude to a hug and kiss. There was every intention of letting go. The chestnut toned lay and shape of her hand slipped gently into mine. After her long angular fingers wrapped around I just didn’t want to let go.

There was something in the nuance of her touch. Call it a calming gentleness, perhaps the serenity that comes from a life well lived and thankfully with no regrets. Just holding her hand immediately relaxed my soul and settled a troubled mind. I wish there were more people in our lives with that kind of caress. Folks who transform our moods with their very presence. Aunt Sarah took me back to a time when my mother held my hand while shopping. I helped her keep her balance while she balanced my sense of self. Now don’t get me wrong. The tender side of women like Aunt Sarah should not overshadow their strength of character and will. Tender matriarchs tend to have come through tough times with their families in tow.

Aunt Sarah is that kind of person. She did not shy away from the disciplined side of love. She understood how there are times when love must become the opposite of tender to do what only love can do. When I look at those delicate hands I am fascinated by the comic irony they represent. My cousins, her late son Le Count, Moses Hardie, Jr. and I went out one night in Portsmouth back in the day. Count promised to be back by a certain time. Well, things didn’t work out quite that way. Ya see, “what had happened was” we forgot about the time and suddenly he was an hour late. Moses said “man we gotta get you home now”! Count tried to play it off. But the nervous look on his face told a different story. We drove up to Ivy St. at a speed just short of illegal. Count hesitated at the door. We tried to come up with a plan until Aunt Sara said something like “Count, that better be you!.” That’s when he made a crisis decision. He would open the door, run through the living room to the hall and cut into his room before Aunt Sarah could throw that infamous shoe. Aunt Sarah’s shoe throwing skills were legendary. Act up and when she couldn’t get to you she’d throw one. In fact, she’s actually an ambidextrous shoe thrower. She could hit you in full stride from long or short range with her left or right hand. That night Count took the plunge.

He opened the door quickly and took off running. Aunt Sarah, delicate hands and all, fired what had to be a curve shoe strike. It actually turned the corner from the dinning room into the hall and popped count crisply on the back of the head. I was in utter shock. She threw it like a curve ball and it did what curve balls do. Count hollered in protest then sauntered into his room. Moses and I, well, we ran for the car and out of range. Isn’t it amazing how the hand that threw that shoe is the same sweet hand I didn’t want to let go of a few days ago? Maybe I’ve come to appreciate how it takes strong hands to raise sons to be men and daughters to be women. This is a spirit filled strength fueled by a love that understands discipline and obedience are not options in Mama’s house. Our little adventure still brings laughter and tears to my eyes. I suspect it will till time slips into eternity. But what warmed my heart this day was to hold the aging hand of a mother, now in her 90’s, who was determined to raise her son the right way by any shoe necessary.

Dennis Edwards is an Emmy Award winning Television Investigative Journalist.He is a graduate of Suffolk High School, Virginia Union University and it’s Samuel Proctor School of Theology. Email him at

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