It was time to dig those old dream journals out of the basement. Yes, they were all there stored in plastic storage containers, thirty-three years worth. The early journals were 9½ by 6 inch spiral notebooks. That spiral format had many advantages. Those notebooks could be opened and laid flat and were easy to write in even when lying in bed. And, the day’s events could be recorded on the left side with the resulting dreams of the next morning beginning on the right. They also came in all different colored covers adding a bit of fascination to them. Years later, larger format spirals replaced the small ones only to be replaced still later by three ring binders.
With all of those journals, the question was where to start. An approach that included spot reviews of dreams from ten, twenty, and thirty years ago was appealing. Opening one of the containers, however, revealed the very first notebooks. My plan went out the window. Those early notebooks were just too fascinating to be ignored. My dream work had begun just before my daughter was born. There were the documented worries about Elizabeth who had developed toxemia toward the end of her pregnancy. There was the record of an early dream incubation to let me know what I could do to help her. The dream came through in a simple piece of music, “It’s Sleepy Time down South.” The message was clear. I just need to help her get as much sleep as possible.
The faithfully kept records of days’ events were there too: the exhaustion from getting the nursery ready, even a comment my mother had made that she had climbed up on a chair to hang curtains the day before I was born. There were notes about all the help we had gotten from friends and neighbors. Then of course notes about the joy I experienced when Shannon was born and how amazing it was, just to hold such a precious and beautiful little person.
In true synchronistic fashion, the early journals revealed other things of interest to my current waking life: the name of an old friend that had been eluding me; and toy train dreams that fit in with a problem I’ve been having trying to fix a toy locomotive.
Having given up on the idea of an organized dream search, I followed an impulse to look up the circumstances surrounding the writing of my first article for the Dream Network Journal in 1987. There it was, a note that my article had been published, with a star drawn next to the note showing how pleased I was.
But while looking for references to the DNJ article, I came across a dream of my daughter’s when she was five years old, in her last year of preschool. The dream had been a favorite for years. I remembered it being about a scary monster wearing yellow boots. Because of the dream, I spoke to Shannon’s teacher about little Ritchie, who I recalled wearing yellow boots to school and w known to bite other children. In a quickly arranged conference, the teacher reassured me that Shannon was safe and that she almost never interacted with Ritchie.
As written, however, Shannon’s dream was much different than I remembered.
*I was going that way and I saw a man with big green boots. You know? Like Ritchie’s boots. He was going in big high puddles. I wanted to kiss my mom. He let me kiss you dad because mom wasn’t home. Then he took me home. I’m glad that dream didn’t come true. I don’t like dreams that come true. *
The dream was multi-layered. The meanings, which related to school, big men, high puddles, home, and Shannon’s relationships with her mom and me, are still not entirely clear. On one level, the man represented Ritchie. I had taken action on that assumption. A brief entry the next day indicated that I was with Shannon when she drew pictures of the big man from her dream who wore green boots. Taking control of the big man in her drawings had been effective. He did not return to her dreams. I don’t recall if I had dealt with the dream issue of Shannon’s mom being unavailable or if I encouraged Shannon to share the dream with her mom; but if it had happened today, I would. Her mom and I would have discussed Shannon’s need for reassurance, concerning her mom’s availability. The outcome might have at least resulted in Shannon getting some additional cuddling and an extra kiss or two.
As a young mother herself, I wondered what Shannon would recall of the incident all these years later. Because she lives nearly a day’s drive from me, I scanned and attached the dream journal page to an email and gave Shannon a follow-up call. Shannon said that the dream seemed unusual to her in a couple of ways. In the dream, her mom was not home, but she recalled her mother as always being at home. The dream did not trigger thoughts about her mom being unavailable. Reading the dream, however, did trigger memories of her being a very frightened child. To me, Shannon hadn’t seemed to be a particularly frightened child. During our conversation, I learned about some of her childhood concerns of which I had been unaware.
Eventually our conversation moved back to the present and the topic of availability. Shannon wanted to make sure that I would continue to be accessible to her and the grandchildren. We realized that we hadn’t been visiting as much as we would like. As a result, we scheduled visits that we’re both very much looking forward to.
After putting down the phone, I felt much better about having carted those dream journals around for so long. They not only helped correct and enlarge on old memories, they also confirmed the enduring importance of old dreams. Because dreams are so relevant to the present and come with perfect timing, it may be tempting to discard dreams after they have been read and interpreted, the way we used to discard day old newspapers. Luckily for me, I had kept those old dreams as well as some of my daughter’s. Randomly finding and revisiting one of my favorite dreams of hers was more valuable than finding a gemstone. That old dream had helped strengthen our relationship when she was only five and helped re-strengthen it again over a quarter of a century later. And the icing on the cake was that it provided the catalyst for strengthening relationships with my granddaughter Annabelle, who just happens to be approaching age five, and her three-year-old brother Alex.
After looking at all those old dreams, they with a doubt have relevance for the present and don’t seem to be quite so old after all. ∞