This child was her being. Her existence was a maternal caress. She enveloped the feeble and unconscious creature with love and worship. It was her life which the baby drank in from her bosom. Of nights, and when alone, she had stealthy and intense raptures of motherly love, such as God’s marvellous care has awarded to the female instinct — joys how far higher and lower than reason — blind beautiful devotions which only women’s hearts know.
–Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
My wife is reading a little book. It shows the touch of other hands. Its spine is gone gray by touting its charms to everyone, unheeded mostly, and settling for an even century of the attention of the passing sun across the sky, slanting into homes unknown. It is a sort of a missal. It fits in the palm of the hand. The pages are like the skin of an onion. The print on the other side of the page shines through a bit, and in every way. Backwards, right to left, it shines through. This book is the little blue tent of the sky in the prison yard of my wife’s life. Inside the cover, it says that it’s part of EVERYMAN’S LIBRARY. I am beset by doubts on that score.
It was smuggled in to her by her little son. He gave it to her for her birthday. I wish I could give my own mother a present so fine, but my heart has been toughened by the calisthenics of living and it’s fit only for lifting heavy objects — and dropping them, generally. It works enough to wish things were different, which is something, I guess. I fear that there is nothing truly heartfelt left in my heart. Nothing pure. My little boy’s heart is a flower, and mine a potato. It is the way of the world. He did the exact right thing because he had no idea what he was doing. How many walking the Earth could claim that?
My wife must consort with dead imaginary people because there is no one left to talk to in this world. Only they understand her, so she takes her encouragement where she can find it.