I am becoming reacquainted these days with a character I created fifteen years ago — Hannah Pearl. She’s the central character in my novel Someone Not Really Her Mother — in fact, she’s the mother (and grandmother) who has become not really herself. Alzheimer’s is making incursions into her inner landscape of memory and language.
What pleases Hannah are the bright moments of words emerging, bristling and dancing again in front of her — words signifying items in the world again. Coming out to a restaurant with her baffled and loving daughter Mir, Hannah “enjoys the menu — Menu, it says, right at the top, with names of luscious-sounding things below: poached salmon with dill, lamb with rosemary, pear salad with goat cheese. It’s lovely to have all the names in front of you like that, in light golden lettering.”
On this wintry day, snow outside, I am grateful simply to have words. Cold though it is outside, I know the word “cold.” Snow, rhododendrons hunched together, deer tracks, gray sky, the sun more a felt presence than shining . . . and inside, books, desk, ceramic bird on desk, wooden angel holding a book . . . How lucky it is, how lovely, as Hannah says, to know how to name what is in the world.
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