I am up at 3:30 am. Half muttering in my thoughts about why the Internet is so slow. And I imagine my mother saying, “it’s the middle of the night. Even the internet has to get some rest.”
As a child I imagine I would have accepted her explanation. As a teen, I would have looked at her skeptically but managed the wrinkled line smile, and dashed back into hiding before she or my Dad “found work for my idle hands to do.” In my 20s, I began to accept her way of being with things in our world. And in my 30s, I started to tell the same type of stories to my young toddler and her baby brother.
Dreams dream the Dreamer
When I woke up in the middle of the night from a bad dream, there were many possible solutions: the timing of the dream, what day it happened, how lucid I or my mother was at the time of the retelling of the dream, and who had dreamt me.
In her culture, dreams have the object and subject reversed. I don’t dream about my mother. My mother dreams me. That is how I get to see her. That is how we have a shared experience. Especially, people who passed to the other side, it seemed to me. They were the ones who re-entered our world through our dreams.
Which is good to know right? But, completely different from when celebrities or your neighbors do a cameo appearance in your dream. That was called a “wandering spirit.” The response to such a dream might be “oh, so-and-so has a wandering spirit.” Or, “you have a wandering spirit.” Told to you like “Remember, to tell your Dad, we are out of eggs.”
A Canceled Dream
Sometimes, your dream got canceled. You would start telling the dream and my mother would stop whatever she was doing to listen to you intently. Then, she would query you. Did you see this or that? What were you and the others wearing? And so on. Then, she might decide that she and you were canceling the dream. Yes, my eyes would go real big. And, sometimes, she would talk to my Dad in the front seat of the car, quietly, about what you had told her about the dream. To which he would “uum-huum” and keep his eyes on the road. He might “chech” occasionally. Or, pause, and make his face so his eyebrow was slightly raised and his mouth slightly askew as though assessing the dream or conclusion.
Sometimes, the dream was “no good.” And still wasn’t going to be canceled. Then, you may have to repeat it 3 or more times. A flurry of phone calls followed to ask about the health or general well-being of people who may or may not have appeared in the dream.
The Dream Policy
The policy on dreams was to wake her. No matter what. Like even when I was a big young lady with exam anxiety in high school, just wake her. My mom had never planned to stop being a Mom. And, getting up was part of the job.
I had two favorite conclusions that she might offer about a dream. One was to sleep at the foot of the bed. So my mother would knock my Dad’s feet or my sisters out of the way depending on what shift my Dad was on, and I would lie down across at the foot of the bed. Or, she would listen, and say "you must sleep the other way." I would go back into my own room, put my head where my feet had been and my feet where my head had been. Mummy said, the bad dreams would turn to good ones if I received them upside down. That little bit of parenting magic always worked. Who knows why. I know it works because I’ve given it myself and always had a restless child return to slumber.
There is no art...
My mom was just herself with her own way of encountering our world. She had been transplanted from another culture. Both cultures had differing orientations to our world.
My mom loved to quote Macbeth "There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face." So, unless you lived with her, how would you know all the ways she was about dreams?
We knew everyone was not like our mother. Her sisters and my Dad were from the same country and adored her being a bit “out-there” to use a North American term.
My Dad especially found it all both ridiculous and profound. Simultaneously. He was definitely more of the literal world but he wasn’t so rigid that her metaphorical and created world couldn’t co-exist. At least sometimes. And, she knowing that there was no way to tell who was who in terms of their beliefs did a fine job of interweaving both the literal and metaphorical worlds. I really loved that about her.
Earlier this week, we passed the one year mark that our kids saw my mother alive. I don’t want her to fade away in their memory. But, I guess that is what dreams are for.