My right hand is shaking.

I can hear the table rattling under my arm as I write—tiny, concentrated earthquakes that my mom says I inherited from her (that she inherited from her mother, and her mother before her, and so on and so forth). 

I hate this thing that my body does. For all the time I have spent developing a strong backbone and confident disposition (or at least the illusion of one), my darn shaking hand betrays me—especially somehow when I am holding a cup of coffee, and my hand shakes so hard that the hot drink jumps out of the foam cup and onto my skin. 

I remember years of coming into morning college courses with Starbucks in hand. I would go to speak or take a sip, and the cup would waver back and forth no matter how hard I grasped it. The other students would notice. Or in the classes where professors forbade computers, my pencil would constantly wiggle out of my hand and nosedive to the floor. I was sure that everyone noticed.

This involuntary tick has developed with age—as a child, my mom told me about her hand tremor, and I was sure that since my small hands were still steady, that gene had thankfully skipped over me.

Little did I know that I would be twenty years old in Continental European Literature 302, trying to explain my thesis, and I would have to quietly slide my quaking hand under the table.

I hate having to apologize to coworkers, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, “Oops. Sorry I dropped that / spilled that / can’t hold your hand right now. I’ve got a bit of hand tremor.”

At the same time, I love adding, “I got it from my mother.”

People have always said that I take after my dad’s side of the family. The resemblance to him and my extended family is uncanny. I could be my cousin’s doppelganger, I have my grandmother’s nose, my face is the same shape as my aunt’s.

So I like knowing that a part of my mother resonates so strongly in me that it sometimes manifests, even when it is inconvenient. It is a reminder that I share the same fear and stubbornness as her when writing by hand or mending a tear or chopping vegetables, hoping I slice evenly through the carrot and not my left index finger. 

Sometimes my hand shakes involuntarily, and I will it still, and I remember being six, finally tall enough to peer over my kitchen counter, hovering by my mother’s hip. I remember the kitchen knife in her hand, the blade glinting as it trembled in the afternoon sun, and I remember her looking down at me, strengthening her grip, and cutting my sandwich into perfect halves.


Richmond, VA

Sarah is a recent alumna of Emerson College in Boston. She now works as a copywriter in Richmond and spends her free time tending an amateur window garden.

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