“Dreams say what they mean, but they don’t say it in daytime language.“~ Gail Godwin
At a family reunion last night in my dreams, my grandmother found me and asked if I had received her text.
First of all, Grandma died over twenty-five years ago. Second of all, she never owned a cell phone or had even heard of the concept of texting.
You can imagine my surprise when she asked me if I’d gotten her text. I fumbled for my phone and searched but saw no messages from Grandma. Meanwhile, she wandered off to visit with other family members. But I remembered her chagrin at my having missed her text and not responded to it, so I went searching for her.
What would she say to me in a text? I can’t begin to imagine it.
More like a Family Bush than a Family Tree
I knew the names of about half of the people at the reunion. That’s not unusual. Every year more cousins marry, more children are born, little ones become unrecognizable as they reach teen years, and even more prevalent, gray hair multiplies, faces age and change. This particular reunion seemed more crowded than usual, as if Grandma had brought along her siblings and their spouses, and all of their descendants, many who’d passed away ages ago.
As usual games and contests, mounds of food and conversation abounded. What a crowd of happy, energetic people. I’m a lucky woman related to such variety and optimism.
Grandma found me during singing time, which I don’t recall ever being part of a reunion. She had a bundle in her arms. Amid the noise of talking, caterwauling and singing, she pushed the bundle into my arms, leaned in close and said, “you need to do something with this.”
I looked down at what she’d handed me. I pulled back a corner of the cloth wrapping and saw what looked like a manuscript. Pages and pages, and pages of handwritten and typed papers. The heft of it in my arms felt significant, substantial, and curious.
When I looked up, Grandma had disappeared into the crowd, so I couldn’t ask her what she meant. Did she want me to edit, proofread, make suggestions about content, or simply read it? Was it her story? My story? Our family story? Or was it something else altogether? I scanned the group for grandma’s familiar face. Nearly, every face had a familiar feature to it since we’re all related. I’d never find her standing among the throng.
Someone yelled out that lunch was ready and the crowd began to disperse. Then a pebbling of snow began to fall, a light springtime pelting that added more fun than chill to the picnic. I huddled over the manuscript in my arms and ran toward a ramada, less interested in food than in finding grandma and asking for details.
With each step I took toward the announced food, the substance of my dream unraveled. I grasped at threads to pull me back into sleep, but I had lost the wisp of it. I’d crossed the threshold between dream and reality, between sleep and wakefulness.
I lay in bed rethinking, reaching, wondering. I tried to will myself back into my dream, to no avail.
Did Grandma have a message for me in those pages? Or was her appearance simply a logical part of reliving multiple family reunions in one dream? If she did show up at my doorstep, what would we discuss? Or would I, child that I always was while she was alive, simply listen to her talking, telling stories, giving opinions, dispensing thoughts?
What I really want involves those pages. Is it her story? Is it my story? Is it something already written, or something I have yet to write. More than likely most things weigh heavy with symbolism. Or it’s all as ethereal and meaningless as fog.
I’m pretty sure the choice is mine. I can assign meaning, or I can let it slide into the slush pile of thousands and thousands of dreams that have preceded this one. Was it a nice stroll down a tree-lined lane of memory, or a message from somewhere or someone, my subconscious, God, grandma, Kathy, my desires?
I wonder, too, about the snow. Snow at a family reunion, when we normally hold them in the summertime, seems significant. I’ll let than one marinate for a while and come back to it later. I’m sure that one detail means something. At least, I think so.
Hungry for More
But for now, my tummy is rumbling with hunger. All those potluck meals I didn’t eat during my dream have caught up to me. I want ham and killer potatoes. I want brownies and snickerdoodles and barbecue potato chips and potato salad. I want to roast a marshmallow until just before it flames, then eat the crisp outer shell. I want to roast a hot dog over the coals and feel the heat of family around the magic of a campfire.
Most of all, I want to surround myself with people I know and love, who’ve watched me grow from scamp to scallywag to awkward young mother and into whatever this is I am now.
“Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.“ ~ Marsha Norman