“Did You Dream the Same Dream As Me?”
Child wonders why Mommy can’t remember hanging out in her unconscious
I remember some of the dreams I had when I was very young, and how realistic their absurdity was; when you’re still a kid, everything new feels ridiculous. At that age, when we hold the novelty of real life up against the random murmurings of our unconscious brain stems, it’s hard to say which is which. Kina’s dreams, which I’ve written about here before, are a mishmash of anthropomorphized stuffies and her parents, set frequently in playgrounds. It’s always recess in Kina’s dreams, an unusual time in a familiar space.
Last night, for example, Kina dreamt that Laurea was babysitting Hello Kitty at McCarren Park, and she needed to call me to take over for her so that Kina and Laurea could run an urgent errand or play Baby Lucy or something. Hello Kitty was being a little troublesome, and I was running late, but it all worked out in the end. She told us breathlessly about this dream over breakfast and then immediately asked Laurea if she had been in the same dream. She had not, of course, because we are eventually raised in adulthood to believe that we have little hermit brains that cannot share in some shared consciousness. Kids, however, assume otherwise, and I’m inclined to go along with that. Kina finishes my sentences, guesses my intentions, and can communicate clearly with me in simple grunts; why would we not dream together? Why would Laurea not recall handing off Hello Kitty in the playground as she and Kina sprinted off to their ice castle? She was there, after all.
We are, to be fair to Kina, for the most part always there. The last fifteen months have been a story of nearly continuous coexistence with our esteemed publisher—and we’re grateful for it. Her life, in ways that we had not expected, is still an outcropping of our own. She still experiences the world through us, and we, in turn, have the world reframed to us in her words. We know Hello Kitty, and we know Kina’s other stuffie and human friends. We know where she’s been and what she’s learning. We know all her games. We know what she’s afraid of.1 In a sense, we know her dreams, because we are familiar with their ingredients. We may as well be in there with her; sounds like fun.
I would like to be in a dream with Kina and Hello Kitty, yes, please. My dreams are boring and dark. The thought of experiencing a dream that unfolds in the light, with no menacing diagonal elevators or long-abandoned dormitories, is extremely refreshing. Would I tag along with Kina as she flew on her witchy broom? Could I visit the ice castle? Would we wake in the morning and each rush out of our rooms to talk about the story we shared? I’m not saying I don’t value the eight hours of space I get from this child every night, but I am fond of the idea that we could imagine together in that way, and that I might get to revisit the novelty of the dreams I had when I was a kid.
In one of those dreams, long ago, I had constructed a water park around the trunk of a massive tree, stretching up into the clouds. I would climb its rope ladders and pull myself up onto pedestals that fell off into water slides or gave access to ropes that let you swing across to deep pools suspended from the tree’s yawning boughs. I spent long hours with countless other kids on that tree, or so it seemed, and when I woke up from the dream, I wept. All morning, I tried to draw the water tree, to record it for posterity. I explained it to my mother, trying to capture the experience for her, and wondering why it hadn’t been real, and why she hadn’t been able to visit. I felt like I had lost something.
Now, as I write about it, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that I can bring that dream into view so clearly—a memory that (as far as I know) only I ever had. A little playground that nobody else has visited. Maybe you dreamt of it when you were small, too. Did you dream the same dream as me?
I should ask Kina.
I bought Kina a little card game this weekend. It’s sort of like the game Memory, but you match characters depicted on half the cards to the objects they’re holding in the other half. One of the cards is a vampire, standing in a swarm of bats. This card did not scare Kina. Its pair is the vampire’s cloak, hovering in space. This card clearly terrifies her, though there are neither bats nor vampires on the card. She says it “looks like a lady” and always asks that it be placed face down whenever it’s uncovered. Now I’m scared of it, too.