Friday, March 20, 2020
I had the oddest take on an old recurring dream of mine last evening. I know they say that houses represent us in a dream, and I often dream of the first house I grew up in on Duss Avenue in my small hometown of Ambridge.
Occasionally I dream that my family and I are moving back to our old home. Or other times, I dream that I am taking a tour of my old home with the family that lives there now. More often than not, the house looks fairly similar with the exception of last night.
I dreamed that it was very late and very dark. I was walking with a group of girls that I knew. The street lights seemed to be out down the block, and we found it a little unnerving. The closer I got to my old house which was now where I was going to live, I saw that the lights were on and all seemed well. I brought the girls inside and noticed that everything was very very different.
In this dream, it was the first night I would be spending in my old/new house. The previous owners had left some of their things for us to go through, to toss or keep. There was a lot of reconstruction work done; extra staircases going into neat, different places as if the house had grown larger and could accommodate a huge family.
There was gorgeous new plush carpeting, and the staircases were covered with them and a beautiful polished wood. Though my friends were talking to me on the "first" floor of this home, I became curious to see what my old bedroom now looked like.
I crept up the stairs, turning lights on, and saw the familiar hallway that led to my room. The oddest thing however, the ceiling was lowered and I had to crawl through a small opening to enter the room. Though the room itself was spacious, yet still filled with debris, some old aquariums where possible turtles and fish once resided, I noticed another room added on that was festive and childish with bunk beds and another staircase going there.
I took the stairs to the new room and found it delightful and whimsical. I wondered if there was another way into the room, when I saw a door down below. Hmm, that's strange, I thought to myself. I realized that probably led to the old cellar.
For some reason in my dreams, I never am able to venture into the cellar. I know of no trauma that happened to me there in real life except for a dream I had once when I was little of seeing a devil face in an old mirror. But this time I boldly and bravely threw open the door. I gasped when I saw an ugly cellar, realizing that nobody had ever remodeled this place. There were cobwebs hanging and worst of all, a tunnel into complete darkness and fear off to the side. This is when I awoke and the dream has stayed with me all day.
In analyzing this dream, I feel that I have "remodeled" much about myself and my life. I think that staircases are just that: ways to connect other rooms and floors of our personality and innermost being. The rooms were very nice, though a little "junk" left over from the previous owners reminds me that I am still getting rid of unnecessary junk in my life from before.
The cellar bothers me the most, however. For there must be a part of myself that is fearful and dark. There are things hidden away that I still haven't remodeled or "fixed." And the scary parts that I don't want to see, must be the psyche, the part of self that we all fear whatever that may be.
All in all, I feel it was a very good dream. Anytime we learn from them, and feel we can translate them a bit, helps us to grow a little more.
Perhaps someday that scary old cellar will become radiant and bright. I'm hoping.
Sunday, March 8, 2020
An old steel town has its stories. Has its characters and secrets too. . .
Growing up in a small town was magical at times. When we children rode our bikes around the neighborhood, we imagined all sorts of mysteries behind closed doors. There were neighbors to fear, cranky old spinsters who knew everyone’s business; Moody fathers of friends that you had to tiptoe around. There was the special needs man who spoke of nothing but tragedies that we children would hide from. There were also sweet people like my next door neighbors who had a creaky porch swing that they would allow me to sit on and swing every so often. And sometimes as the husband watered his flowers with a hose, he would squirt us children as we walked past and look away, feigning innocence as we giggled uncontrollably.
There were little outdoor parties that my friend Patty and I would gather small feasts of junk food: mini donuts, crackers, cookies, and cakes. Sometimes we would hang a huge blanket over the railing of her back porch and eat in the cozy tent we’d created.
We pretended our bikes were cars as we rode along the sidewalks. We would stop at the red lights and go on green. We played countless hide-and-seek games, board games, and swam in little inflatable pools in the summer. We tried to make outdoor carnivals, and pretended to sail away in grape crates to what my grandparents affectionately called The Old Country.
Nothing was more exciting than Nonna’s attic. Old houses back in the day were famous for these extra rooms. There were cardboard boxes stuffed with yellowing newspapers which held layers of voluminous bridesmaid dresses and pretty clothes. There were steamer trunks with their slightly musty scent piled with assorted goodies—doilies, sewing boxes, hand-crocheted items and knick knacks.
An attic that was big enough to have two double beds and assorted antique furniture was better than any clubhouse for me and my cousin. There was a small, mysterious room in one corner that had a small fire once and it still held the scent of old smoke. Yellowing, cracked linoleum lined the floor. Yet to me, it was as beautiful as a mansion.
Nonna had a tin button container that my cousin Anna and I adored. There were lovely rhinestone buttons, plastic buttons that looked like flowers, metal ones and opaque colored ones. It was a favorite playtime of ours, to choose our favorites and pretend they were “people.” Nonna’s button was always the biggest one with a large sparkling stone in the center. Our mom’s buttons were more conservative—plain, white ones. Mine was light blue with a floral print and a tiny stone in the center. Buttons were just small enough to fit anywhere—to have incredible adventures, and always have a story that ended happily ever after.
Many people at that time had borders that stayed with them—people who paid a small amount of rent for a room. Nonna had Phil. He worked in a local steel mill, and became like a member of the family. He was a true gentleman, kind and very funny.
My grandmother made regular Sunday dinners with homemade spaghetti, the softest, tastiest meatballs, tender veal cutlets, Italian bread and salad. These dinners were wonderful times and nothing could break the bond of the feeling of family surrounding that table.
Phil would make me and my cousin giggle during dinner. He also would get us to finish our whole plate of food by saying that whoever was the last one eating, was the “monkey.” Nobody wanted this title, so I blame Phil for my weight gain and love of food later in life. Then Anna and I would help Nonna clear the table and squabble over who got to wash the dishes, and who had to dry them. Anna was older than me by several months, so somehow she always seemed to win the best of our fights.
Sometimes Nonna and Nono had friends over for card-playing nights. Wine flowed freely, and chatter was mostly in Italian. I sometimes sat watching them play and they tried teaching me the rules to a game of Scopa, an Italian card game. My eyes became heavy as they played late into the night, and Nonna would walk me up to her room and tuck me into her bed. She closed the door, and as I drifted to sleep, I could still hear their hearty laughter and talk.
Childhood was my own Narnia world. Though there were realistically bad events, nothing could steal my imagination. Pretending became balm to me; an escapism that I sometimes wish I could still find. If I was really someone else, nothing could harm me, right?
Is it any wonder that every so often, I visit the childhood of my youth? Sometimes I drive along the streets where I used to play. And other times I travel only in my memory. For there it is safe, there it is only a shadow, one that I can embrace if I care to, or leave behind for a little while.
Take a moment to remember your journey of pretending. Stay a while, but not too long. It's a special place.