I begin to awake. I am aware my dream was just that, but I try to remain there, my waking conscious mind trying to reel the scenario back, to elaborate on it, to discover what might had happened had sleep continued… Oh, oh, oh, here I am again, when I was just there… I can hear the rooster through my foam-stuffed ear. I open my eyes and peer out over my tiny, disheveled house – when just moments ago there was possibility, allure, potential…
I’d designed a beautiful reunion event, and while no one had showed thus far, the room looked good. Ready. A few folks came to investigate, and they complemented me on my success. Satisfied, I left to go peruse the other peoples’ parties – for this is what it was, a day of many events, one atop the other in multi-leveled rooms, down large hallways, on top of dramatic cantilevered staircases, spread across large shallow pools with floating cups of light… And I simply wandered in and out of them, faintly hoping to meet someone I knew, meeting only distant acquaintances of acquaintances… Once again I was thin, once again I was young, once again my dress was elegant, once again this was simply the way I existed in the world…
I recall another chapter from my night. There was a man from my dream named Steven, with whom my friendship promised warmly and in good humor to develop into something more intimate, now that he had bought the new townhome… I picture the home in my head, the street view, the neighborhood (for my dreams are usually more about place and the feeling of place than anything else) and I wonder if it really would have been better to live out my life there. Things would not have lingered in that buzzing, hopeful mood forever, would they have? Laundry, at some point, along with a myriad of other toilsome things would eventually need to be done. Right? Or not? Oh, to live in that suspended state of promise…
I simply cannot draw the dreams out any further. I muse on the few familiar faces I did see, and try to recall their names, and from where I know them in my waking life. Kathy from camp. We loved each other, we were the outsiders. What was her name? She was there in my dream – yet I wasn’t able to reach her, too many bodies in between. Then a mousey, dancer girl I knew in High School – how on earth did she get there? And the chubby black guy holding an infant like a football – what was that about? There will be no answers, just perhaps a frantic search in the damp basement for the box that contains my senior class yearbook so that I might find that dancer girl… Maybe a meditative moment of concentration to bring back Kathy’s last name followed by a search on Facebook… The dream is done. The day can no longer be avoided. I remain quiet. My son is still sleeping, my world is still private. I’m left with a slight residue of sorrowful back-looking and what-ifs coloring my first waking moments.
The rooster has been quarantined in the garage. Last night was his first apart from his flock, and I can no longer lay in bed, coaxing enlightenment from the vapors of my dreams as his discomfort is descending on my conscience… I get up, shuffle to the mudroom and don my flopping, unzipped winter boots, to make the wet trek to the coop. I open up the interior door to the run, then attend to the de-throned king in his tiny apartment. He is perched, his dignity maintained surprisingly well, atop an old metal shelf cast on its side for just this purpose. Poor guy. I open the outside door and he pushes past me. He has never been apart from his ladies like this. Does this bother him? (As much as a chicken can be bothered.) He paces back and forth along the fence of his private enclosure, strutting and scratching at the dirt, indicating he ‘means business’. The hens’ backs are missing feathers and raw on the shoulders due to the non-stop sex life of this rooster. Finally, the poor girls have a break. You’re welcome.
Yesterday we’d entertained a four year old boy for the day and had pulled out Elihu’s old tricycle for him to ride around. I trudged over to remove it from the middle of the driveway. It is blue and shiny. Elihu had always called it ‘Mongey’ – with a hard g – because the name of the bike was ‘Mongoose’. We took Mongey with us a lot of places. Like when Fareed would have a long rehearsal, or we’d be visiting a childless household with time to kill. In the rainy day gray of the morning I stare down at the little blue tricycle, my wakefulness tinged with the sense of longing that the dreams have left behind.
I picture the year when Elihu was four, when he himself decorated his little tricycle with a glass ball ornament on each handlebar. Colorblind, he couldn’t have known it, and perhaps I had had a hand in it, I don’t remember, but he ended up with one red, one green. An image flashes in my mind: a tiny boy with hair gently curling at his neck, pedaling madly, his knees flying up towards his ears, the glass ball ornaments dangling… He is riding away down the long hall of the practice rooms at Northwestern University. It is also gray outside. The light is even, neither light nor dark. I can’t tell if it’s day or evening. I feel suspended in time and space. Fareed had just told me of his pregnant girlfriend a few days before. I am sick. I am trying to understand how to live, how to exist, to react, behave. How to breathe. I am stunned, I am looking at our son, the comical image of his mad pedaling, and realizing that I cannot share this moment with my husband as my heart yearns to; with our arms around each other as we look on in love at the child we have created together.
I need not lament this sad moment in my past story, for this morning is filled with my son’s declarations of his love for me. Is this not truly the pinnacle of a mother’s existence? He is happily cleaning up after our young visitor yesterday, at my coaching putting ‘like with like’, sorting airplanes from cars, dinosaurs from gum wrappers, singing all the while, telling me how happy he is and how much he loves me, and I am here, in the beginnings of a good mood, purging myself of the morning’s emotional residue in the form of a new post.
Half-remembered dreams leave me with longing. And while longing can be good fodder for creation and progress, longing can also be a disheartening feeling to live with. These past few years I’ve had to deal with many bouts of longing head-on. And for me, the best cure for that frustratingly diffuse ‘what-if’ game starts with a tidy house. There are those (my ex included) for whom this might seem a distraction in of itself – a condition that I’ve mandated for myself that obscures the work or challenge at hand. Perhaps. If so, so be it. For me, an orderly house brings a great sense of control, of peace. I’m not naive enough to think I actually do have control, but I’m human enough to still want the illusion.
And so right now I will turn to the tidying of my home. The aligning of things on shelves, the straightening of piles, the putting away of things with like things, these are the actions I can take today that will bring me a sense of certitude, of conclusion. At the very least, I can know where I stand in relationship to the artifacts I share my life with. My waking to-do list may never dwindle, and I may never again see my old friend Kathy but for my dreams, but I know that I love my son, I know he loves me, and I know that everything in my home will soon be neatly tucked away in its place for now.