When you’re writing a story, time is fluid. You can take three pages to describe a moment, or cover an entire decade with one paragraph.
I’m no fan of dream sequences, but last night I dreamed this: my mother, Aunt Mary, and two of their brothers were gathered around the big oak trestle table on my patio. I wanted to take their photo but they were sitting too far apart, so I waved my hands, asking them to scootch in closer together. They stayed put and continued their conversation. Aunt Mary lit a cigarette. Aunt Mary doesn’t smoke. I went back inside, slid the patio door shut to keep the smoke out, and stood watching them from the kitchen window. They seemed so far away.
Next week, my mother would have turned 67. She’s been gone ten years, but July 11 remains marked on my calendar. I don’t need the reminder, and yet it feels wrong, disrespectful, to remove the words Mom’s birthday from that tiny square — her square, like tangible real estate — in July.
What do you do with a decade?
I bear and raise a couple of kids, ask my mother-in-law to move in, write three novels and four novellas, start a couple of blogs, tell my sister-in-law she can stay as long as she needs to, and work on a WIP that might actually be something someone other than my Dad might want to read. And made an awful lot of friends, too . . .
That’s one hell of a lifetime in a mere 10 years!
i only remember a few details of my first decade.
the second was topsy turvy and ended with me as messed up as i’ve ever been
the third was me feeling my way through the darkness, looking back it feels only like a small blip on my radar
i’m finishing out my fourth right now–this has been the longest decade for sure. it started with a sense of clarity and is ending with a urgent need to define myself once and for all.
your dream is so wonderful in describing what you are doing and the issues you are facing while doing it. why was aunt mary doing something she wouldn’t normally do? there’s a question that could cover an entire chapter, right? You keeping the smoke out–a telling detail. “Go ahead, continue what you’re doing; I’d rather just watch.”
Happy birthday to your mom.
Thanks, Josephine. This last decade sometimes shrinks and expands like a possessed accordion.
All I can say is that each successive decade gets a lot shorter.
Each year, even. Last year this time seems like last week.
Cry. And then go out to dinner to celebrate your mom or do something that she would have liked or that you liked to do together.
For a long while I brought home yellow roses, her favorite, and set them in the center of my kitchen. Now that suddenly feels forced. Maybe I’ll take my dogs to the beach!
I have no words of wisdom but what I do have is understanding. You know I know exactly how you feel.
I just finished reading Are You My Mother? which I highly recommend. She has wonderful sections on her dreams. My difficulty is remembering my own. I really ought to write them down the moment I wake up. Otherwise, they’re gone forever.
I measure the last ten years in four lifetimes. Tiny, delicate, ever changing lifetimes.
Tiny, delicate, ever changing lifetimes. Love that, MSB.
I rarely remember a dream, though strangely I’ve been dreaming almost every night of late. This is very odd. I only remember this one because it was right before I woke up and I wrote it down immediately. They disappear in an instant. dreams.
And thank you.
Wow – that dream. There is so much truth there, I think.
Aunt Mary will be appalled when I tell her I caught her smoking. This will take up a good half hour of our next conversation, and I’m looking forward to that.
I love when dreams unite various characters from life in odd juxtapositions doing bizarre things. Let us know how the Aunt Mary conversation goes!
There I was, as usual, shutting the door to keep the smoke out. I was always such a bitch about the smoking.
That dream, that dream. Oh wow.
I have a few dreams about my mother that came through so strong and so real that they almost scared me. They happened mostly in the year after her death, and not anytime in the last decade plus since she’s been gone. But in addition to those vivid dreams there were the ones where I couldn’t reach my mom — where she was there but could not hear me, or was there and then just gone. Those were the worst.
No, wait, the worst was about 5 years after she died, when I dreamed that she was living a few states away with a new husband and I just hadn’t talked to her in a long while. I thought, “Why in the world haven’t I seen my mom in so long? That makes no sense.” And so I called her to plan a visit, just like that, and I was so happy and relieved she’d been there all along.
Waking up from that one was the worst.
My mother appears in so few dreams. The year after she died, I mentioned this in a writing class and a Hmong women talked to me in the hall after. She said that, in her culture, seeing or meeting someone in your dreams is never a good thing, that it means you have unresolved issues with each other to work out. She said it’s best never to see someone in your dreams, because it means you are at peace with each other.
I love that.
That’s really fascinating, and probably true. Though I’m not sure it’s possible to ever resolve all the issues we struggle with over a lifetime; even an excess of affection can cause problems in a relationship. But I have always loved the idea of our subconscious minds struggling to make things right, even while we sleep, even when we don’t know what the problem is.
A decade. I’ve spent the last one unravelling much of the confusion of the past one I think, and hope there might be some enlightened peace ahead. At a certain point I know I wanted chaos, to compensate for what was missing in complicity and creativity. But you know when you are off course – and then it takes years to pull things back into shape.
I have to agree about unresolved issues with those of whom we dream. Mine come around every summer when the ex is due in town.
Ps I would take the dogs to the beach xcat
“you know when you are off course” — isn’t that the truth. And isn’t it interesting that no matter how well we know this, it can still be damned hard to get back on the road.
What do you do with a decade? I’ve finished five now, with a few accomplishments and more regrets than I wish. Probably time to focus more on what I’ll do with this next one.