How I dream

Update on my updates (real post below): In case any of you are wondering what happened to the votes that you tell me you cast over the last few days, well, I was kinda wondering, too.  Only one of them actually registered, and I do believe those of you who said you voted (but hope you didn’t feel pressure!)  I have contacted Blogger’s Choice Awards to let them know I am feeling a little like Al Gore in 2000, and hopefully they will work out the technical glitches soon, permitting you to actually cast a vote for this blog or to give up in total disgust.  If not, Julie and I can take it to the Supreme Court.


            I am a vivid dreamer.  J rarely remembers his dreams, and, frankly, if my dreams were as dull as the few he does manage to remember, I would not bother either.  He has one- or two-scene dreams.  Mine resemble a Wagnerian opera.

            There are the nice dreams, in which I eat doughnuts.  Have you ever had a doughnut dream?  These dreams are fantastic on two fronts.  One, there are no calories or cholesterol in dream doughnuts.  And, two, they actually taste better than real-life doughnuts.  Nothing pisses me off more than getting awakened halfway through a glazed doughnut with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles.  Can’t you wait till I finish eating and then wake me up before the part of the dream where I am re-carpeting the ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton or teaching elephants how to tango?

            There are also not-so-nice dreams.  These are the ones with Nazis.  In these dreams, I am running away.  That is the summary version; the long version is considerably more complicated, often involving abandoned buildings, neighbors’ closets, and other manner of hiding places, in addition to an absurdly convoluted, three-act packing extravaganza.  I used to have these dreams all the time.  Whenever a student seemed vulnerable or I heard about an innocent jeopardized, I dreamt about running away from Nazis with my cat.  Yes, I dreamed of protecting Nala from the Nazis, who for some reason had decided to target a slightly overweight calico-Siamese mix with a neurotic licking disorder.  Perhaps they had run out of gypsies, Jews, and nuns to persecute. 

Once I had a child, the Nazi dreams shifted.  I had them less frequently, but they were more intense when they occurred.  I no longer needed to protect Nala.  The Nazis had lost interest in her and moved on to my son.  But there was still the packing, the running, the hiding, the planning, and the looking behind every petunia pot for the enemy.

            Nazis figure deeply in my consciousness.  My maternal grandparents fled them, leaving behind large extended families to perish in one camp or another, and those were the ones who made it to the camps.  As a young adult, my Grandma Esther actually saw siblings shot in front of her by people they had once considered friends.  This might explain why Grandma Esther was a bit over-protective of her own children, although I am not sure Jewish mothers ever need a concrete reason to be over-protective.

            I may now dream about Nazis less frequently, but I worry about them more.  Yes, I know they are probably not on the verge of a world-wide comeback, but they are everywhere, if in slightly different forms.  I have a friend who has dual citizenship.  When she had a child, she was careful to get that child the dual citizenship to which she was entitled.  “A Jew can never have too much protection,” she said.  She is correct; she is way, way too correct.  I am only sorry that Benjamin is not entitled to dual citizenship, despite being born in the UK.  I would like to go through life knowing that there are two governments who take an interest in his survival.

            I think about scenarios.  If something were to happen, who would hide my children?  In Philadelphia, I had several potential families scouted out, not to mention friends across the country.  Here in London, I feel vulnerable.  What if a pogrom started?  Who do we know well enough to hide the boys and make sure they got out alive?  And, what if they started hunting someone not Jewish?  What if the English-French rivalry suddenly got out of hand?  Would I be brave enough to try to pretend the French children of our friends really belonged to us?  Would I put my children at that risk? 

How about an attack on the water supply?  The air?  We are in SW London, far from the U.S. Embassy, and J is gone a lot of the time.  What would I do?  How would I get my boys to safety all by myself?

            I think like this because I belong to a group of people who have been hunted throughout their history.  I think like this because I am a mother, and motherhood has made me understand how precarious is the safety in which I raise my children.  I think like this because I know there is a very good chance my children will live on a planet that cannot sustain them.  I think like this because my own childhood was so unsafe, and so I know first-hand that life is not all pixie sticks and roses.

            I also think like this because I know there are parents.  There are parents whose fears for their children are not hypothetical.  There are fathers who flee from their own versions of Nazis.  There are mothers who cannot give milk to their babies because they have no food of their own.  And there are mothers who, each day, have to decide whether to put themselves in the path of rapists or to skip collecting firewood that day.  There are mothers who give birth to their children, wondering whether it will be a girl, vulnerable to sexual attacks, or a boy, who will be abducted and forced to become a killer. 

While Zachary refuses to eat chicken nuggets, there are children who have never known a full stomach.  While Benjamin toddles about hurting himself, there are children in considerably more danger.  While I worry about raising my children to be good adults, there are parents who worry about raising their children to be adults. 

I would like to dream like Laura.  I would like to dream that I can make a difference, that I can help others.  I would like to be hopeful that I have that sort of power.  Instead, I gather my children to me and peer out into the darkness, ready to fight to defend them against whatever comes along, knowing full well that, if it does come along, there is very little I will be able to do and probably few people brave enough to try to protect us.

So, I dream about Nazis and they have no dreams left at all.

25 responses to “How I dream

  1. Aww… If it ever comes to that, all you have to do is come to Holland. I’ll hide you in my attic à la Anne Frank 😉 Of course if its because of the Nazis, I’d be in trouble too…

  2. Wow – you have MUCH heavier dreams than me. I DO remember some of my dreams but not always. I repeatedly (much to my annoyance) dream that I am running through my old high school and CAN NOT find my locker. I usually wake up really stressed. I really WANT to find that damn locker.

    Now I just concentrate on dreaming anything other than what faces CJ in the near future. 😦


  3. haunting.

    just yesterday a young girl (10?) said to me “i don’t understand why religious freedom is such a big deal”

    After I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I tried to explain to her why it was, indeed, a “big deal”

  4. Reading this makes me feel very priveleged as thoughts of fearing the Nazis never crossed my mind nor the very valid reasons behind holding dual citizenship.

  5. My jaw is on the ground, too, just reading PM’s comment.

  6. Ah yes, vivid dreamer.

    I see we are not only Sisters in Blogitzer but also in vivid dreaming. (BTW, I say bypass the court. I have those Felony Kits. I think the Astronaut one will do: wigs, duct tape, pepper spray and coarse rope. We can do something to the Blogger Awards that will fix their wagon with that kit, I think.)

    I also hear you on the protect your children. I do not focus on the same things as you, understandably, but I have all sorts of In Case plans in my mind.

    I thought it was the Curse of the Overthinker, but you are saying to examine culture and genetics. Hmm, good point.

    Using My Words

  7. I’m just sobbing right now.

    I complain daily about this trivial thing and that one; the laundry, hub’s dirty socks on the bathroom floor, the algae in the pool that just won’t die, Bean’s refusal to live on anything but milk for 3 days in a row. It seems important at the time, I’m sure.

    But half a world away, women offer themselves up for sex to strangers if only someone will take their dying baby to a hospital. Fathers and mothers watch their children slip away for lack of simple medicine to treat diarrhea, or for fifty cents worth of food per day.

    Thank you for posting another important reminder about what matters, and about our responsibility to others.

    And? If it ever comes down to brass tacks with the modern Nazis, or whoever? You bet I’d hide you all.

  8. That is, indeed, very haunting.

  9. I’m a constant dreamer too , however, I do not remember dreaming even once about donuts. And, my husband can’t remember his dreams either – what’s up with that!? I think dreams hold a lot of meaning – not that I understand any of it, but I do love to hear interpretations of dreams. Have a good day – Kellan

  10. What an amazing post. I’ve thought about emergency scenarios some, mostly because my husband is not great about returning calls, e-mails, or text messages during the day! But what you’ve described is beyond me and makes me sad. No one should have to have those dreams or those reasons for dreaming.

    I give you an Internet ((hug))!!

    Thank you for making us all think today about how blessed we are in this world.

  11. Em, I thought that I understood you before, but now I know you.

    I get it.

  12. Haunting indeed. And sad. And lucky.

    I dream like J, boring dull and boring.

  13. This is such a powerful and amazing post. Thank you for sharing. I am lost for words.

  14. Twenty Five Days

    One of the reasons why we encourage Laura to have these dreams right now is because we know so much more about this bigger world that she is about to confront. I never want her to be without hope, especially when she comes to know the very real powerlessness that you are describing here. Little projects like the one she is doing right now are her preparation for those dark understandings. Sometimes, all we have is our appreciation for the smallest things in life. Our gratitude for the most miniscule things….and that gratitude can nurture hope when it seems like such a thing isn’t possible. That’s why we are encouraging Laura to dream as she does. So when the nightmares come, she can call upon her memories of better dreams. And maybe that will help. But I don’t know.

  15. I was sampling truffles in a dream the other night. The champagne chocolate was amazing.

    We have a friend who escaped Liberia under Charles Taylor’s dictatorship. It took him, his wife and his infant daughter a year, on foot. They would start out, get sixty miles, and be forced to turn back because of the fighting. For a while they lived on leaves. When he escaped, he weighed 88 pounds.

    They live in the U.S. now, but split time among Colorado, Ethiopia and Liberia. He is trying to establish a library in Liberia — once running, it will be the only library in a six country radius. Not six _county_, six _country_. We’ve donated books, but transportation is a problem.
    Anyway, I’ve already written a novel here as a comment. One of these days I’ll post about him.

  16. At least you can recall your dreams. Usually, I can’t. But I know I do have dreams of being chased as well. By who or for what, I just cannot recall.

  17. I was raised in a religion that had us constantly prepared for absolute disaster: do you have enough food stored? Are you sure? Because the world could end tomorrow and you know you’d need that can of soup. I remember at 10 crawling under my bed SHAKING with fear at all the horrible things that could happen that we had to be ready for. I hope my own children are less afraid, more confident about their world and their place in it – but how to strike the balance so they are aware that not everyone has this privilege? I wish I knew…

  18. Oh. Dear Emily. I remember a post I wrote in September on which you commented about your vivid running-from-Nazi-dreams. This is so poignant.

    A Just Post, indeed! (I wonder if Mad would go ahead and let me submit it now?)

    Since 9/11, I have had to come to terms with the great many things that are completely out of my hands…like war and terrorists and whole generations of people that despise me and my children, sight unseen… But in that “coming to terms,” I’ve also made eye contact with the great many things that are well within my grasp…like loving my neighbor despite a domestic and foreign policy I mostly disagree with, aligning myself with the things I want to be defined by and not leaving it to dogma and uninformed generalization–things like generosity and kindness and informed and powerful and woman…

    There are still days when I am notably “shitting my pants” as I watch the news, but in small ways, I am taking back the promise of my future and refusing to surrender to dread.

    Everything else is in God’s hands.

  19. i am a very vivid dreamer, too. very, very vivid.

    and i don’t know what to say with out blubbering all over my screen. this just hurt my heart, to know that you as a child and your family and your people have been persecuted and abused for far too long.

  20. I had to take a day to think about how to respond to this. You have made real for me something I instinctually felt, but didn’t know – what it means to be afraid with a reason to be so.

    I don’t think I believe that you never dream of making a difference. Especially when it comes to the environment.

  21. Damn. I never have eating dreams. That would be fantastic. But if the Nazi dreams come with dream donuts, I’ll pass.

    I know I have dreams about needing to protect someone in a way I never did before. And it’s scary as hell. I also have a visceral reaction to any mother I hear about or imagine is trying to protect her children. Sometimes it seems so hopeless.

  22. Wow, wow, wow. What an amazing post.

    I started out reading about your dreams thinking “oh, me too! totally me too!” but ended it thinking “oh, totally not.” I grew up being taught that I should be ready to defend faith to the death at any moment, and went to the rodeo at the age of six thinking for sure it was the Colosseum where they threw Christians to the lions (how’d I even know about that?!) and was petrified. But I don’t know what it means to have this awareness, and this reality, but so, so real.

    Thank you for sharing it.

  23. Wow. This was a stunning post.

  24. Yes, thank you for sharing too. I have dreams like that too and the weird thing is I remember having scary nazi dreams as a child too. I too, have crazy dramatic complicated dreams while the one dream my husband ever remembered was “I drove a truck”. I never figured out whether it was because I heard so many real-life holocaust stories and lost most of my family, or because I grew up knowing firsthand that bad things happen in the world. Probably both.

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