My hands are raw and full of paper cuts today.
Grandmama had given me a book about origami, but my fingers are too small and clumsy with the paper. Instead of birds, flowers, butterflies, and stars I had mushed together monstrosities that didn't resemble anything beautiful. I swam in a sea of wadded paper that evening and I felt terrible. Mother had told me I was wasting my time. Grandmama told her that all the lessons we need are etched into our hands.
"Why can't I do it, Grandmama?"
"Of course you can do it, haven't you been practicing?"
I sighed and pointed to the mess in my room, papers slipping between floorboards and hiding beneath piles of clothes. They didn't want her to see my failure. She didn't say anything as she took the horrible book from my dresser.
"Where are you going?"
"To bring the book back of course," her teal shoes shuffled past half-folded stars, making their way to my door.
"It's not the book!" I reached out for it, as if I had loved it with everything my seven-year-old self could love. I began to cry when my fingers came in contact with its leather binding.
"It's not the book, it's not the book," my words became a jigsaw of letters as I mangled the phrase, "It's not. It's. Not. It's me. It's me, I can't do it. I'm not good enough."
Understanding arms found their way to my trembling frame, "It's not you, my darling."
"Then why, Grandmama?"
"Teach me. Teach me how to do it."
"I can't, I don't know how."
She wiped the tears from my face.
"You mean you didn't learn ANYTHING?" disbelief clung to her tone, it startled me more than I expected. Was she right? Maybe I had learned something.
It felt like hope was pressed against the inside of my hands, asking for the rough edges of paper. Grandmama placed the book on the floor, opening up to the steps of a butterfly. I didn't need to glance at the collapsed wings and over-folded tries next to me to know how to start.
For those moments I nearly forgot she was there, except when I'd catch a glimpse of her perfumed wrist turning the page for me. I just kept folding and folding and folding.
"And what do you call this, Vanessa?" she held up the butterfly I had just finished, it's wings folded unevenly, browned creases digging into it's center. I had created that beautiful paper mutant and I was proud of it.
"Grandmama I did it! I really did it!"