Way back when, Chef Boy ‘R Mine had a nightmare. I slept through his screaming (I’m a sound sleeper), but Ex O’Mine ran in at the very first of the blood-curdling scream. Soothing the child (he was and is a very good father), he told the boy that he’d chased the bad dream away back to the Land of Bad Dreams. The child asked where that was. Groggy and put on the spot, the ex said the first thing that popped into his head – “Michigan. Michigan is where bad dreams live.”
[Now. The boy was confused because I always told him the bad dreams were caused by using the wrong side of the pillow. We then made quite a to-do of turning the pillow over, smoothing it, and peeking under it to check for certain that we had the right side down.]
Michigan may have popped into the ex’s head because my parents were setting out in a couple of days to visit the extended family. When Child O’Mine heard later, he was appalled – he decidedly did not want his cherished grandparents near the Land of Bad Dreams. My father had to do a lot of fancy talking to ease the child’s mind.
Michigan has, forever since, been re-dubbed the Land of Bad Dreams notwithstanding the fact that almost all of my extended family live there.
The whole thing was doubly poignant (and kind of funny) because both parents had some horrendous childhood experiences in Michigan. The sweetness of my son’s concerns softened their bad dreams a bit.
Neither my son nor I have nightmares often. I do, however, have a recurring dream that’s eerie. I don’t wake scared – more puzzled. I’ve been having this dream since I was about 13. If memory serves, the first time was during my first menstrual period. [The women amongst us (and some of the men) know that menses can provoke all sorts of psycho-drama.]
I don’t have it often, but once a year or so, I will dream of the white house. In my dream, I’m wearing a long flowing nightgown – white- suitable for the cover of a romance novel. I’m in a shabby cottage. Everything is white. The linoleum is white, the walls, the appliances, the curtains, the doors, the woodwork and the fireplace mantle. The only thing not white is a poster hanging above the fireplace. The poster changes through the years. At 13, I think it was a Moody Blues album cover – In Search of the Lost Chord. Later, it was Mary Lou Retton. Most recently, it was Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
The dream never lasts long. I’m in the house. I waft from room to room. I always have a sense of puzzlement – of what I don’t know. The lack of furniture? The unrelenting white? The poster? The cracked and scarred linoleum?
After exploring the house, I open the front door to find that it leads directly to a pier – a very long pier. There’s no porch or walkway to the pier. The pier is the porch. It’s gray and foggy outside. The sky and water are so gray it’s impossible to distinguish one from the other. The fog has settled in and the beige of the sand is completely obscured. I walk to the end of the pier for what seems miles. During the walk, I watch my bare feet carefully negotiate the pier. The pier is ancient and splintering.
At the end, I look into the water and notice sunlight dapples. I look up to find the fog has lifted and the sun has come out. I look to the left and I look to the right and for miles and miles all I see are identical houses with identical piers.
The dream always ends there.
I have analyzed this dream from every angle. Not a clue. If my psyche is trying to tell me something, it needs to start speaking a language I can understand.
I went to Michigan this week to attend my grandmother’s funeral.
We stayed in a charming motel on a lake – a delightful mom & pop place. I scoped out the scenery as soon as we checked in, but the purpose of the trip precluded my itch to grab the camera and go play.
This morning I woke up at dawn. Quickly slipping into jeans and a sweatshirt while grabbing the camera, I quietly opened the sliding glass doors and walked through the early morning drizzle and fog to the lake.
There was the pier.
In my dream, the pier had always been weathered, gray wood. I now know that was wrong.
The pier is white – in keeping with the house. I think my psyche didn’t know there were white piers.
I hurried to the pier. My sleepy self was convinced if I stood on that pier, I would understand.
I stood on the pier. I sat on the pier. I took off my shoes and put my feet in the freezing water. I let the rain sluice over my head. I watched the wind ripple on the water and enjoyed the scent of early morning pines.
I took photos. Dozens. I sat in a chair and stared at the pier, the lake, the trees, the falling leaves. I fell a little bit in love with Michigan.
I still don’t have a flippin’ clue what the dream is about. But I expect to have it tonight.
I still think the dream takes place on the Atlantic ocean, but a Land of Bad Dreams pier is going to change the tableau. Lord only knows what the poster will be tonight – I was admiring a Georgia O’Keefe at a bookstore today.
And all of this reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes: If little else, the brain is an educational toy. (Tom Robbins).
I need more time at this pier. I think the red hammock will entice HMOkeefe. (He likes hammocks.)
And I did fall a tiny bit in love with Michigan – the Land of Bad Dreams – the memories of my childhood and the beauty of this morning’s scenery contributing. And that motel was just too charming. Yes, I need to go back and spend more time on that pier.
I have got to unlock this dream which I just know I will have tonight.