Most nights when I set out to do this, I know what I want to say to you. It is always at night. I am, like Blanche Susan, a sleepy night owl.
The thumb on my left hand is dry and withered. I do not seek to remedy it. I stroke it, I nurture it, for I know where it comes from, and I do not want to hear any other explanation. It is my childhood, representing itself. If I were to tell my mother about my left thumb, she would know it was the thumb that I sucked until I was too old to suck my thumb, my unconscious habit, in bed, lights dim, under the covers, with a book tucked in front of me and a pile of books beside me.
The other night, I was out with my husband and J., the troubadour, who both claim to not remember what it feels like to be a child. Not remember what it feels like to be a child! It seems impossible to me. I think my entire life is a winding pursuit to the secret garden I dreamed of when I was small. I search for the path that leads to a palace blanketed in snow crunching beneath my feet, a gown made by my mother clutched between my mittened hands. I look for the doll makers, the suffragettes, the pioneers, the mute geniuses, an old house in Paris that was covered with vines. I look for the life I found in the books she spoiled me with. She, the non-reader, indulged her daughter at the library, at the bookstore.
The sadness of mourning, you learn to live with. The anger of grief, you learn to live with. The anxiety, the fear, the depression, all of it becomes a new, familiar friend. What I will never learn to live with is missing my mother. My mother is my phantom self, the part of me that is no more. I do not want to close my books, my dreams, myself as my mother's child. I pick at my left thumb, I treasure that old wound, for in it is the late nights, hot under blankets in the cold house, the girl who didn't quite belong, but was loved, and oh, how I was loved. In my scaly left thumb, is my mother, guiding me along.