In my dream, I was in my mid-twenties. I travelled up north to spend a weekend with my family at Waskesiu, a place we've been going to for at least forty years. When I arrived at the lake, I was a barefoot child exploring a small town alone in the evening sun. My attention wandered to watch strange children play around unkempt tennis courts. Weeds and tree shoots pushed through cracks in concrete everywhere, not just on the courts but in the streets and through the sidewalks. It felt both familiar and foreign, like my parents' hometown did to me as a child.
I stepped on some glass, and when I pulled the shard out of my third toe, I held the glass up to the sun to inspect the blood along its edge. In that moment, I became larger; I was grown. I put on shoes, went to my father, and told him that I needed to leave.
We drove for a long while until we arrived at what was a new home for me, one I had not yet lived in. We unpacked large containers from his van and stacked them in the front yard. As he backed down the driveway and out onto the road, I waved from my collection of boxes, knowing that I would not see him again. It was sad to know he would be gone, but I knew that this was just the way things had to be, so I turned to the unfamiliar house, tugging a box behind me, and accepted my fate.
I know that it was a dream, but I was so emotionally invested in the experience of growing up over one night and losing my father, ageing and accepting my adulthood, that it set me on some fairly sombre ground for the day today.
I think this dream, while obviously heavy in symbolism, was also my brain's short-form retelling of a day I had when I was twenty-four. My younger brother was eighteen and difficult, my parents were newly-minted empty-nesters, and I was adrift, having no idea what to do next or what I wanted from my life. The four of us went up to Waskesiu to spend time together, and, over the course of that first day, each of them took me aside individually and told me who I was to them, what they needed from me, and how I could help them. Each of them also swore me to secrecy.
In an odd twist, I had been made the covert leader in an embarrassingly obvious screenplay to which no one would conceivably buy the rights. It was all tell and no show, as though my life were being scripted by a fifteen-year old attempting to do a hard-boiled, 1950s crime drama crossed with the neurotic conversation style of 1970s Woody Allen films.
I walked away from that day feeling like I'd been forcefully grown up. I felt bitter and awkward. I didn't want to be what I was to them, and I didn't want to bear the responsibilities I had been handed.
I have become much softer over the years since, and much more thoughtful, so I am not surprised that I met last night's dream with less anger and more grief, more resignation. I was not proud of how I handled myself at twenty-four, but, although my response has changed, I am no more pleased with how I handled it at forty, dream or not.
Grief and resignation are not the emotions I want to speak for me at the crossroads of endings and beginnings. Saying both goodbye and hello can make for clumsy transitions, but I have had a tendency to concentrate on the goodbyes, to protectively shelter myself with my back, as though from a blast, while facing my past head on, as if that were the thing I was marching into.
We trust the devils we know more than the ones we don't, because we mistakenly believe that we can't hunt what we think we can't see.
Do you ever have dreams that could write their own books? Because I want to hire mine as a ghost writer and idea man. He's onto stuff I'd like to buy the rights to.