My mother told me I was born from a flower. I was conceived from a wish. She told me I was a miracle, a gift from God.

My mother was a beautiful woman, in her youth, but she never found anyone to love. She lived her life on her own, and she said it was good when she was younger, but when she grew older, and she lost her looks, she grew lonely and she wished for someone to love. It was too late for her to find a husband and have children, but she wished for a child. She said she prayed every night, and every morning, to be blessed with a child of her own.

My mother is not an idiot. She knows where children come from, and she knew she wouldn't be able to have a child of her own without the help of a man. But she also told me she never had any wish to be with a man. She said it hurt a woman, and she had never been enough in love to let a man hurt her.

My mother knew she wouldn't be able to have a child of her own that way; she said she didn't know what exactly she hoped for when she prayed to God for a child. She didn't have much hope, she said, and yet her prayers were answered.

She loved her garden, almost as if it was her child, and she spent much of her time there among the flowers and vegetables she had planted. One morning, while she was in her garden, she watched as a tulip opened up, and to her astonishment, there was a baby inside.

"God had answered my prayers," she told me. "The answer was you, my love."

My mother loved me, and I loved her with all my heart. She was the kindest mother any child could ask for. She was a graceful and gentle woman, and she took care of me as carefully as if I were a precious jewel. But best of all, she let me discover the world for myself.

Other mothers would protect their girls from the world, and keep them a secret, but my mother thought that was nonsense. Despite my size, she let me explore as I wished, as long as I told her where I was going, and I always returned before sunset. I wouldn't want to worry my mother, or lose her trust, so I was always sure to be careful. I loved walking through the tall grass, and meeting the ants who toiled away at the earth. I would follow them about, trying to lift berries with them and scratching their heads when they dared approach. I brought one home with me once, to be my pet, but Mother made me set him free.

"It isn't fair to keep any living thing for yourself," she told me. "Everyone deserves to be free."

Despite my mother's love and my freedom, I was sad. It was some time before I really understood that most children were not like me. There were no other girls the size of a thimble in our village. I watched the other girls from afar. I watched them hugging their mothers, and I saw them embracing the boys. I realized I could not do those things. When I tried to hug my mother, I could barely even fit my arms around her thumb. She could never hug me tightly as other mothers did.

She tucked me into bed in my walnut shell and blew me a kiss goodnight. I wondered if she ever wished I were bigger too. As she closed the door to her room I started to weep from frustration.

"Why are you crying?"

I looked up and saw a sparrow in the window, looking at me kindly. He was a young sparrow, with handsome feathers and clear eyes, and I was not afraid, though my mother had warned me that some birds might be dangerous.

"I am too small," I told him. "I cannot hug my own mother, and she cannot hug me."

He tilted his head to the side. "You don't look so small to me," he said.

"I am not small for a sparrow," I replied. "But I am not a sparrow. I'm a human, and I much too small as such."

He hopped into the room and stood beside my bed. He was bigger than me, and up close his beak looked quite sharp, but still I was not afraid. I knew that he was a kind sparrow and he would not hurt me.

"I have never hugged my mother," he told me. "I don't think it matters, as long as you love each other."

I huffed and shook my head at him. "You wouldn't understand – you're a bird. You have no arms to hold another!"

He spread his wings and looked at them. "I suppose you're right, but I still think you are crying for nothing. Why, look at what a nice nest your mother has made for you; she must love you a lot."

I had never met anything bigger than a beetle before, but I quite liked this sparrow. He spoke truthfully, which is why his words made me tear up again, and also why I was frustrated with myself. Why was I crying when he was so kind?

"Don't cry," he said, hopping around anxiously. "You must try to make it better."

"Do you think I can?" I asked. I wondered if he knew of some magic that might make me bigger, or maybe of a plant that helped growth.

"I don't see why not," he said, as though anything were possible, as long as you couldn't think of a reason why it wouldn't work. I was beginning to believe him too, in him and his sparrow logic, so when he asked his next question I ended up laughing instead of crying.

"When do you become as big as your mother?"