In Dreams

Last night I woke from a dream that took place in the conference room of my old office. Variants of the old office have become one of my standard dream locations. The oddities of what becomes and does not become a dream setting, or influence on dream settings, is the topic of what might become a rambling post.

In the dream that inspired the discussion, I was back there, years after the fact, with some other people I didn’t recognize. There was some problem we were going to fix for the big client that was the reason for the office being where it was. I checked with them that I had the correct password. The rest centered on discussing terms, shades of Bronn, with two scruffy guys and a girl who seemed to speak for them; what they’d do, how they’d be compensated, and whether I’d actually be able to compensate them. Bottom line seemed to be that they’d risk a minor amount of work, but beyond the task at hand, forget it. Perhaps they wanted Highgarden.

The dream reminded me that it’s coming up on an amount of time since I was finished with the last of the last activity around closing that business that will equal the amount of time start to finish for the business. About three years total of the time for the business was before and after the office. I spent a lot of time there and it was pretty personal and distinctive.

It’s not normal for me to have dreams based at places where I worked. It has happened, but it’s been selective.

You would think that places where I spent a lot of time, especially formative time, would be prominent. Places I had no serious connection with or that were transient would not factor into dreams. That can be generally true. It’s just as true that some places appear out of proportion and others appear seldom or never despite being prominent. I have also dreamed completely fictional places that are as real in my memory, from dreams, as real ones.

The house where I grew up is naturally prominent. Often it’s the yard or other surroundings, including some of the outbuildings on the land around us. My father had his business just up the street. The original one was gone when I was 5, but is as likely to be what it is in a dream as any later location. The building that replaced it after a year or so doesn’t appear. That was gone relatively quickly. I sometimes dream about the temporary place where he did business in between. I don’t really dream about the final, longest lasting location that ought to be the most significant. That’s the location he sold when he moved on.

Second only to the house where I grew up is my maternal grandmother’s house. That most commonly appears melded into features of other houses. For instance, last week I faced out of my room in a dream. My room was a bedroom in that house, but the part I was facing was somewhere else. Perhaps the most identifiable other house that is part of dreams now and then is my old friend Zack’s childhood home, razed a number of years ago, but before that one of the oldest in the town. Places of influence include my great grandmother’s house, my aunt’s house that had been my great aunt’s before that, a rest home or something I visited once to see a great aunt, Daphne’s house, Kara’s house, and the home of a family we visited a couple times when I was little. That last is significant because my older brother would later have an enduring crush on one of the girls in that family.

The most unexpected is the shack my father’s mother’s parents lived in, barely in my early memories, visited once or twice when I was at most 4. Dreams set there owe more to the woodsy location by water than to the exact building. The way the building appears is almost like a hobbit hole. It’s cozy, safe, and mostly a single room. Completely rustic.

That one borders on a purely fictional location, however inspired. There’s an actual fictional location that to my memories may as well be real. It’s a yellow house, in the trees on a sort of ridge line between sections of swamp, down a stretch of grassy fire road if you know it’s there. I want to put it in a book if I can, someday. In dreams, I spent time growing up there with my brother and sister. It recurred when I was young, even more often than having a forest fire in the woods across the street from my actual house recurred in dreams. I’d be out there trying to battle flames blazing up to tree crowns with a garden hose.

I used to have school dreams. Not based on the elementary school or high school. Mainly based on the junior high and later the college. Sometimes I’d have dreams in schools with odd architecture, like walkways along the walls of the outsides of the buildings, at second floor level. You’d enter up there. They’d connect to other buildings or ramp to the ground. No rails. Similar to dreams I had when i was a kid in which we’d ride through Boston on roads that ran along the sides of buildings, connected precariously to crumbling brick. The roads through the city now look a lot more like what I was dreaming than they did then, but obviously you’re not driving up flimsy ramps hooked to sides of old buildings.

My big stock location that draws inspiration from others but is not the same as any of the exactly is the giant, creaky old wooden house with endless rooms. The floors are sometimes thin to the point where it seems I’ll fall through. The rooms can be empty, or full of junk. If there are people in the house, usually I am on my own, whether looking for something, exploring, or going to my assigned room. If this building has a street location, it is usually on a street not far from Zack’s house, where something like it doesn’t really exist, and there’s no building I’ve been in.

A variant on that is at a house that is now owned by my cousin. It was owned by her father and, when they were still married, her mother, my father’s sister. Except in the dream it’s bigger, and centers around the cellar, with a rickety floor perhaps 20 feet above the cellar floor. The floor has gaps, ends abruptly, and is very thin. The fall seems deadly. There’s not really a way into the lower part of the cellar from the elevated area above it, which is apparently accessible from the house. In real life, the house is on a hillside sufficient that you walk into the cellar through a regular door at the back. It’s normal, though, with a normal set of stairs up to the main floor of the house. That dream is always terrifying.

Speaking of terrifying, I can never remember what it’s about or why I scream, but the one I commonly have set in the yard where I grew up ends with me screaming “Mom!” Out loud, as I wake up. I don’t know if I am screaming for her, or because of something she’s doing to me. I did have a version once that was inside the house and was definitely her doing something to harm me. Smothering me in my bed, as I recall. Weird.

I once dreamed about an alien stepping up to my car while I was driving around, delivering papers. Vivid. I drove off in a hurry. It had a threatening feel. On the other hand, I once traveled in a beam of light that acted like an elevator. I was going out toward Jupiter and a family of aliens who looked completely human were on there way to Earth when we paused for a brief, friendly chat before continuing in our respective directions. Inspiration from surroundings only goes so far.

Which reminds me I forgot to mention the point of places that never seem to register in dreams. At least, I don’t think I mentioned it. The place where I lived the third longest, in two separate stretches, has been notably absent from dreams, The one time it appeared was such a surprise I made a big deal of it. Somewhere I lived for 11 years doesn’t rate, but a place I visited once becomes part of the architecture of dream houses? Has to be age and impressionability of the brain.

Speaking of youth, perhaps the most significant dream I ever had was of my kids before I’d met their mother. I may already have told this story here. Oh well. I was in an amorphous, gray place where people wait to be. An area cleared into a strip of lawn, gray still swirling behind it. Three kids were there. They were a girl, a girl, and a boy, in that order, but in the dream they were already perhaps 6-8 years in age range. The two younger ones, obviously close, chased each other around playfully while the older one stood and addressed me sternly, chastising me about taking my time and keeping them waiting. Then they stood side by side before me, in what would be birth order. I don’t have a clear memory of exactly what they looked like, but their appearance, relative ages, and personalities as much as you could discern in that short time were close enough to the kids that were waiting in the wings that it was uncanny. As it turned out, the first of the kids was “impossible.” She was conceived at the earliest possible point when she could have been, as if in a rush.

Free Range Kids

It annoys me that there has to be an expression to describe “free range children.” Back in the olden days, we simply called them children. Yes, not a Melody post! But that inspired it, because it’s such a dramatic image of another time and place. The past is, after all, another country, and that was another country and in the past. It was also a different environment from the one I grew up in, city instead of rural.

I learned to ride a bike when I was 8, rather old because of my mild physical retardation from meningitis as an infant. I believe I talked about this in one post or another in the past few weeks. Once I could ride, that was it! I was gone! I had wings. Nobody thought a thing of my riding three miles to visit friends.

Even before that, though, I was walking all over the woods, to the nearest beach, to the store (over a mile away), and of course to the bus. We had to walk a third of a mile just to get the bus to school. It was rare and frigid for me to get a ride. My mother walked me to the bus, which stopped even farther away, for the town’s version of kindergarten. That was for a short time during the summer before first grade. It gave them a chance to teach us how to go to school and give us some bare preliminaries. Which was funny for me, since I already knew how to read. I don’t remember ever not knowing how to read, so I would guess I learned sometime in the 3-4 years old range. It was physical retardation. After that I walked with my older siblings for first grade, with my sister for second grade, and by myself thereafter. My kids had to walk to elementary school just a little farther than my walk to the bus. We ended up being expected to walk with them through third grade, even though they were considered fine to walk home by themselves.

Someone called the cops on the youngest when he went out to play with a kid about three houses down the street at the age of about 5. That was a little young, but it was also close, with a sidewalk and not busy street. I never did figure out who called. We taught the kids from a young age not to dash into the street and how to cross safely if they needed to. Compared to where I grew up, it’s downright urban, but really it’s a quaint old factory town’s downtown, the outskirts of it, basically suburbia, in a town that ranges to pure rural, cranberry bogs, and thick woods.

Circa first and second grade, I hung out with a kid, Reggie, who lived about a mile from the end of our street (end of our street being the bus stop, 1/3 of a mile from our house). He was on the other side of the main intersection and only traffic light in town. The big business at the junction was a liquor store/variety story with a gas pump. While we spent some time in his house, mostly we ranged around outside. We freely crossed the street. We walked back along the main road most of the way back to my street. We would collect bottles to turn in at the store so we could get ice cream bars or candy. Nobody thought the slightest thing of it that six or seven year old kids were doing this. That would have been about 1967-1968.

I think the last time anyone worried about my going walkabout was when I “went to pick blueberries” when I was 3 and it was the wrong time of year. The dog went with me. Then they went out in the woods and swamp to find me. I gather I wondered what all the fuss was about. Since my father’s business was maybe a tenth of a mile or so up the street from us, I would range between there and the house, almost as early as that age. I’ll never forget being no more than 5 and rushing down the path that was a shortcut between the two, trying to get home and failing. The business had an outhouse. The outhouse tended to attract hornets and I didn’t like it anyway. What a mess! I remember my mother cleaning me up while I stood in the bathroom sink. At least if all we had to do was pee, well, we lived in the woods. The world was our urinal.

I had to save this so I could go to bed on time. It’s always disorienting to pick back up on something like this after it has sat. If it veers off from this point even more than usual, that’s why.

Actually, I can remember going up the street to a building my grandfather worked out of, not long before he was disabled for good, and riding down the street with him on a giant bulldozer. I probably wasn’t even 4 yet then. I know i was extremely young and it’s one of those super early but vivid memories. He had worked for the original owner of all the land around us, who died two years before I was born. He had actually been involved in draining the swamp and building cranberry bogs many of the adult relatives would be employed on during harvest when I was little. We would hang out and watch, maybe hand pick rogue cranberries from the banks around the bogs. The house I grew up in was built for the guy he’d worked for, whose wife then refused to move there. That was how my grandparents came to buy it. My parents took it over when my grandparents couldn’t afford the payments. Originally they had planned to buy land and build a new house across the street. Weirdly, that house exists in my head, along with an imaginary house that never existed on a rise on the other side of the swamp from where we were. Both of those are yellow, whereas the house we ended up in was always white. The house on the other side of the swamp would appear in dreams when I was a kid, with us living in it. It wasn’t something I simply imagined. The house we didn’t build is more a matter of imagining it, knowing it could have happened, rather than it being pure fiction of my subconscious.

Anyway, when I was a kid, I walked all over. I rode my bike all over. When my father’s shop was in another part of town, I walked there from school some days. There was no special permission needed to leave school on foot rather than bus one day.

By the same token, if we were absent from school we were absent. Daniel and Melody didn’t go to school that day and paid the price later. In my case, we were supposed to take a note to the office the next day. I remember that in high school, but not in elementary. However, I seldom missed school in elementary. I was sickly after moving to the house I grew up in, mysteriously, and they eventually injected me with gamma globulin as an experiment to see if it’d help my immunity. It was years before I was sick again to any degree. Then I was sickly the last two years of high school and beyond, to varying degrees ever since. Since the cause became clear after a while, that provided insight into the mystery of my chronic ailment when I was very young, and why (I found out later) it didn’t start until after we moved. Also, it didn’t actually not affect me during the years after the gamma globulin. It just stuck to the more subtle aspects.

If one of my kids missed school, especially elementary, you had to call by a certain time. Like calling out sick from work. In middle school you just call the office, rather than there being a special voicemail line for it. If you don’t call them, they call you to find out if you know your kid isn’t at school. After all, kidnapping! Is! Rampant! Or something.

While my kids are mostly homebodies, they do stuff like walk to the store. The major street between us and many things you might want to walk to is not for the faint of heart, but between us and downtown, and to cross either main road downtown, is not so bad. The oldest is 14. She had a good friend not all that far away, and would walk there, but the friend’s mother kind of freaked out at the idea of doing so, especially in the dark. Conversely, the day her kid got off the late bus and came here, her mother called the police to come get her and was completely freaked out. Granted, the kid was messing with her mother by having her phone’s “battery die so she couldn’t call.” Probably just as well the kids had a falling out. You get too restrictive, then you have offspring who explode later. My kids wouldn’t feel like they couldn’t ask to go, or tell us where they were going. They aren’t as free range as I was in part because they don’t care as much, and in part because it’s a different place and time. At least we’re not stopping them, and they’re all old enough that nobody should be reporting them as unaccompanied kids as so many idiots have done with no good reason.

When I watch Melody, it’s awesome to see the kids roaming around London. They’re not only going to and from school, but also gallivanting around otherwise. It’s awesome to see two 11/12 year olds able to hop on a train and go to the seaside – on a school day! – and nobody questions it. Nobody wonders why they are hanging around at the beach, going on rides, riding the train, all without an adult. Or nobody wonders enough to call the authorities, anyway. that’s old enough that even here and now they might be fine. We’re nominally walking distance from the commuter rail to Boston and points between here and there. Two of the kids are old enough to ride as unaccompanied minors, and would probably receive little or no scrutiny.  In theory, one of them could decide to walk over to the station and pop up to Boston for the day, as long as they had the money. It’s kind of the equivalent. At the actual and apparent age of Melody and Daniel, that wouldn’t be possible. The youngest might even pass for old enough, if it came to it. I can’t see why any of them would think to do that, but it’s there.

When I was 14 and 15, I was riding my bike to high school, about five miles. I was riding to my friend’s house, an additional maybe two miles. I was riding to buzz around Ella’s house, go to the next town north from there, or a couple towns east of there, to watch drum and bugle corps practices, and I was riding home, often in the dark. The power of love. Google tells me the ride straight home from the far flung east practice would be about 7.4 miles. From the northern practice spot straight home would be about 9.6 miles. From the launching point where the group would go to practice, just a few houses from Ella’s, it’d be 5.9 miles to or from home. From there to the eastern practice spot would be about would be about 7.3 miles. So I’d go 5.9 miles, then 7.3 miles, then from there home 7.4 miles, all to stalk Ella and get those extra looks at her and see her in action, wielding a flag or a wooden rifle as part of a choreographed performance. All to the tune of MacArthur Park. It was a bit obsessive. No wonder I related so much to the boy in Endless Love when I read it several years later, and when I saw the film. Even though that was a sexual obsession and it hadn’t occurred to me yet that I ought to be after that as part of it.

I digress. But my point is I was still a freshman in high school, 14 turning 15, and I was everywhere. At that time in my life, I thought it’d be the Best Thing Ever to ride a bike across the whole country. It’d be cool, still, but I’m kind of used to driving. I’d love to drive across the country again, and glad I got even a marginal chance to do it once.

Do kids ride around like that these days? Even in the name of love? Maybe I’d have been glued to video games if we’d had them then. Who knows. Maybe technology moots the whole thing.

Not Just The Usual Suspects

I recently talked about songs reminding us of people, or sometimes specific places or scenes from our lives. That usually will mean friends and family who are reasonably close to us, but not always.

My friend Frank, had a friend named Mike who played bass guitar. When I met Frank, four towns were part of the school district and we were in 9th grade together. He had moved to the town part of the way through 8th, but had never hit my radar before 9th. Had I not met him in 9th, or gotten to know him, really, I likely never would have. That would have changed my life so enormously that there would be no comparison. I would never have known many of the people I know, lived some of the places I lived, had perhaps even most of the jobs I’ve had, everything. I hate to say it, but that might overall have been for the better. If not, it would at least have been utterly different and I would never have known the difference. And had his surname not been close enough to mine to place us in the same homeroom, that would have been enough. He was in a class with me, but if that were all, he’d have just been a name I recognized.

I didn’t know Mike then. He also lived in the town Frank lived in, which was the one building its own high school, opened for our 10th grade year. Ella also lived in that town. Which, neither here nor there, had been where my paternal grandmother grew up, and where I have dim memories of visiting her parents when I was very, very little, down a dirt road, by a lake, in little more than a shack. For such a vague memory I didn’t realize the exact meaning of for decades, it sure became a fixture in my dreams over the years. A house based extremely loosely on that, in a spot based less loosely on that, has appeared as a dream setting many times. That should be its own posts. It’s funny, formative places and how they are in your dreams, alone or melded with others, while others, particularly newer ones, are not. I can only remember a single dream that took place in the house my father and stepmother owned from 1976 to just a couple years back, in which I actually lived twice, for a total of 11 years. I might have had some when I lived there either time, but I have always been more likely to have dreams based on my grandmother’s house or the house where I grew up. Which for some reason reminds me of my history over the years, but not for a long time, of having nightmares from which I’d wake up screaming “mom!” The impression of those I had was of being hurt by her somehow, as opposed to being upset that something bad happened to her, but I’m not clear.

One time I was with Frank, visiting Mike at his “hobbit house,” as Frank called it, upstairs in his bedroom, which did kind of fit that name. Mike played the well known bass line from The Chain by Fleetwood Mac over and over and over. Mike was crazy for Stevie Nicks, and named living with her for at least a year as one of his forthcoming goals in life. We were young. And hey, she’s only 13 years older than us! That’s how much older I am than the wife. That’s arguably more of a problem overall for us than not a problem, but it’s not completely absurd. She’s always been old for her age.

I will forever think of Mike when I hear The Chain, or even just the bass line from it. Mike did go on to be very nearly successful in a couple of bands. I have no idea what ever became of him. Frank had long since lost contact, until just before he died, when I believe he’d gotten an e-mail address.

Another song that will always remind me of Mike, and by association with Frank, is Babe, by Styx. Mike had dubbed it, and turned it into a running joke between the two of them and then me, “the messy song.” Why? The line “my heart is in your hands.” Messy! Still makes me laugh, and that’s what I think of when I hear the song, however pretty and romantic it may be.

There are girls I’ve had crushes on that were pretty intense, yet with no musical associations. Then there’s a girl named Tasha. She was certainly kind of cute, but her biggest claim to fame is after Carol had moved away between 4th and 5th grades, I looked around for Carol, didn’t recognize anyone as the girl I remembered, and wondered if it was Tasha because there was a modest resemblance. She was always super nice. Still is. But in 8th grade, when she happened to ride the same bus as me because fewer were needed to pick up the kids on the second session in 8th and 9th grades, I crushed on her a little on the bus. Especially since my crush on Mary came to an embarrassing end that fall, and nothing as intense replaced it that year. The crush I developed on Kerri was kind of artificial, in name of feeding the sensation I’d enjoyed of having a crush. So Tasha was in there somewhere, eyeing her on the bus, set to the music from the radio we had on the bus. I think one of the students had actually installed it with the driver’s consent. Somehow I came to associate her with Rainy Day People, by Gordon Lightfoot. Always a great song, and appropriate for a girl who always seemed pleasant and kind.

Now, I could list a large number of songs I associate with my old friend Zack, others I associate with Frank, and even multiple songs I associate with my late stepsister. I was asked not to write any online tributes or whatever for her when she died last April. Not sure if they thought I’d say something bad or if it was just a sensitive topic or if they’d seen the craziness I ranted here a few years before, but songs associated with her are a big part of my memories and I intend to write about that at some point, even if I can’t write a post that expresses how unexpectedly heartbroken I was, and how much I’d apparently loved her even though we became involuntary siblings at ages 10 and 12. Or perhaps because we were still young enough. Just the week before she had the stroke that killed her, I was thinking of her, wondering how she was doing, and regretting I might never actually see her at some point. It had already been over 20 years. Any annoyance she might have been in our younger years was far overshadowed by my pride in the adult she became, and my appreciation of how much she clearly adored my father. She would buy him Patriots tickets and fly up from Florida to go to a game with him. I am not supposed to write about that kind of thing, but one of these days I will talk about at least three songs that are, for me, her songs.

I Seldom Dream About Work

That’s a bit odd, after having been at the same place for more than ten years.

I woke up from one that incorporated a combination of current and past employees, and had me seemingly doing two different jobs in different places. At least one of them requires having a radio, but I didn’t have one. When I woke up, I was crawling along the conveyor belt, moving packages around, planning to crawl all the way through the system to where trucks would be unloaded. Suddenly the belt was going to be turned on and I had no way to tell them I was on it so don’t. Since we’re not supposed to be on it, that’s a huge safety violation.

Earlier in the dream, we had a meeting in the conference room. My boss was talking about riding the bus to work. I interjected a couple times to clarify things, then she yelled at me for interrupting.There’s no such thing as bus service you could use for getting there in the middle of the night. It’s actually kind of amazing that there’s very limited bus service you could use during the day. Years ago, I’d give someone a ride in the wee hours and if she was going to be there late enough she’d go hail the little bus going by at about 8:30 or 9:00 AM.

As usual in a dream like that, the place didn’t look the way it does in real life. It also seemed to be a scenario in which things weren’t right, including there being too few people.

If Facebook weren’t still down, I’d be posting this there. I always hop on FB while drinking coffee before work, so it cramps my style having an outage. If that keeps up, there will be a lot more randomness from me here.