ROSSMOOR — Boy, have I got some great hands. Spread like grape jelly over my fingers and palms are the indicating signs of wisdom, creativity, success, sensuality, compassion, honesty and love. Should this journalism game ever fall through, my hands say, I could make a great psychologist or water dowser. The only problem is I've got Al Gore's thumbs.
This is all in the estimation of Geraldine Swigart, an effervescent Rossmoor housewife with four grown children, grandkids, a beautifully appointed and maintained home and more than 2,000 inky handprints. Swigart calls herself a hand analyst. One room of her otherwise normal abode is devoted to hands, with hundreds of books on the subject, as well as castings of hands--including Chopin's--religious hand carvings, a medical skeleton's hand, a 1928 Parker Brothers "Hand of Fate" game and other handy items.
Where many of us take them for granted, as conveniences to scratch with and sneeze into, Swigart sees a hand as an autobiography waiting to be read.
"You can have cancer and not know it until tests are done," she maintains, "but the body knows it, the brain knows it, and is already trying to fight the disease. In that manner the (five-fingered) tools that the brain uses the most wind up reflecting your emotions, thoughts and health."
Though partly based on palmistry--which she says can be some dangerous baloney in the wrong hands--Swigart's hand analyses come from her own observations and intuition derived from 40 years of study and observations, she says. She still asks her subjects to tell her if she messes up or misses something so she can further perfect her craft.
Swigart is always watching hands, from her own to famous ones on TV. "Look at Bill Clinton's thumb," she suggests, "You'll never find a great leader who doesn't have a strong thumb. He has a flexible thumb: He can mix with people, go a number of ways. And it will take a lot to make him believe something or not, before he really takes a firm stand on anything." President Bush has "a narrower thumb that really is not as powerful as Clinton's. I have a picture of President Kennedy's hand, and Clinton's resembles it in a number of ways. He is not as refined or educated a man as Kennedy, but they're close."
Poor vice presidential candidate Gore and I, she said, have thumbs that are "very frustrated. Just look at the crooked flange of Gore's thumbs: He'll come out with a dissatisfaction somewhere, just wait."
Swigart first became interested in hands four decades ago, after someone gave her a book on palmistry. "I'm a very skeptical person, but the more I looked at people's hands the more I became convinced there was something to it," she said.
"Hands bring you into this world and hands bury you. It's a fascinating interest that's been around for thousands and thousands of years, because every handprint is different, every one. Why did even the cavemen mark their caves with handprints, instead of nose prints or footprints?" Maybe they were just fumbling for the light switch. (If they do ever find Paleolithic lip prints, one of Swigart's daughters is ready, having created a niche as a Bay Area lip analyst.)
Shortly after perusing the palmistry book, Swigart first tried her hand at reading hands when she and her husband, Robert, (they're celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary next month) attended a church couples party. "It was dying on its feet. Though we'd never met these people before, I picked up the hand of the woman next to me and said 'I've been reading a book about hands.' I told her some things about herself, and they turned out to be right, and everyone started crowding around wanting to know what their hand said. It jazzed the party up."
The thrill of doing her first "party readings" turned cold before the evening ended. She recounted, "There had been one young man sitting off to the side, and he had a very young wife who was just hanging on him. I started reading his hand and told him this and that, and then said, 'Oh, I see you're only going to have one love in your life, and it's going to be early in life.' His wife burst into tears and began to sob. He had to leave with her, and it broke up the whole party.
"I'm standing there wondering what I said, and someone told me the story, that he'd been married to the love of his life, been madly in love all through school. Then she died in childbirth. Then this girl who'd had a crush on him offered to take care of the baby. He married her, but everybody knew he didn't really care for her. So I didn't do these readings outside the family for some time."
A lot of experience came from volunteer appearances at senior citizen centers and hospitals.