When I was young, maybe even before my parents got divorced (that happened when I was about 12), I decided that I needed to have a bad habit. My sister was a chronic nail biter. She used to chew them off to below her fingertip. My mother was always trying to get her to stop. My Dad’s bad habit was picking his finger, his thumb to be exact. I had no habit. I had nothing that my Mom would get on me about. It was then that I decided that I should pick one up; a bad habit. I tried nail biting but I just couldn’t get into it. Reflecting on this, I am not sure what to make of my intentions. What does it say when you feel that you need to pick up something negative, in a conscientious way, a purposeful way? I have no answer but it is what I did.
My Dad’s thumb picking seemed to be pretty unique. I checked him out. I got it. The problem was of course, that I got it too well. I picked up the picking with a vengeance. For a while I had both thumbs going; pretty much decimated. It is difficult to describe; kind of like when people with extreme eating problems talk about how they end up eating an entire cake. They have a piece but then maybe it is not even so the slice away some more to eat. Then maybe the number of slices is odd so they have to eat another. And pretty soon, the entire cake is gone. That is how it is with my thumb. I pick some of it and maybe the skin is jagged and uneven and soon I am picking more of it. It has been this way for a long, long time.
It has gotten better, somewhat. It is only one thumb now and not both. And the reprieved thumb that had been damaged has recovered without a trace. I look at it and can’t conceive of beginning to pick at it again. It is so healthy and normal. My other thumb is not. It is puffy and pink and doesn’t entirely straighten out. It is slightly scabby and really unattractive. The state of this thumb may be dependent on what is going on in my life. There are times when it is next to normal and there are times when it is like it is right now.
When I was at the Chinatown parade the other day, I waited and waited for the right lion to give my dollar to. I wanted one that was a good color, orange or maybe black or red although I liked the green ones as well. Finally, on our side of the street, there was an orange one. I had been so wrapped up with making sure my son had plenty of opportunities to give dollars and taking pictures that I ended up with the dollar in my left hand; in the hand with the bad thumb. I know that the there are people inside. You can see the people inside, but when they are right there, right in front of you, it is easy to forget. So the bad thumb was grasping the dollar and I put it in the lion’s mouth and the person who took it sort of ran their hand over mine, including my thumb. One part of me just felt sorry for the fact that that person had to touch my nasty thumb and the other part, the one that believes in mystical stuff sometimes, felt like it was a sign; that gentle touch. A sign that my thumb won’t remain this way in the upcoming year; that the things drive the picking will go away; lessen; or the effect they have on my thumb will loosen. And I was glad that I waited for the right lion.