It isn’t often that I dream about my mother, but when I do I wake and wish that I had a better dream memory—and better dream control. I wish that I could dream about her more often—and that in those dreams I could know that I am dreaming and how special it is to be seeing her. Because in my dreams my mother is still alive, and seeing her is as commonplace as denim or oatmeal. It’s only when I wake that I know she’s been dead for years, and feel the deep pang of regret that I couldn’t have dwelt in the dream with her longer.
Dreams are so often bizarre and full of nonsensical and incongruent tangents—so wild and control defying. In dreams we can be here then there, in familiar places that look nothing like the real thing. Dreams of my mother are no different. The other night I dreamt that she and I were going through her dresser drawers. Or, rather, I was going through them as she looked on. As I often did in real life, I was searching through her clothes looking for anything of mine that might have gotten mixed in. (This would happen on occasion whenever my father folded the laundry.) I opened a drawer and found that it was bigger than it seemed. It was full of shoes—dozens upon dozens of ballet flats sandwiched together and bound with rubber bands. There were shoes in every color, shoes that were multi-colored—shoes that were bright, vibrant, and looked new. In the dream, I looked at the abundance of my mother’s shoe collection and felt sad that my shoe size was so much bigger than hers—sad that my feet were too big to wear my mother’s shoes anymore—a sadness I felt in real life somewhere around the fourth grade when I started wearing a size ten shoe.
Every time I dream about my mother I awaken with mixed feelings. I’m happy that my subconscious can still conjure her—hasn’t forgotten her. I’m happy to have had more time with her—surreal as it may have been. I’m happy to be thinking about her when I wake up—to start my day with her in my heart and on my mind. But I’m also aware that it was just a dream, and dreams are so intangible—whispers of reality that readily dissipate like fog in the wind. Even as I remember, I forget. The dream’s mark upon my mind growing ever more faint with each moment I’m awake. The dream images beginning to fade like oversaturated watercolors in the light of day. Waking up is like loosing her twice as the dream slips away and reality comes to take its place. She’s leaving. She’s gone. She wasn’t really here. She, herself, is a memory moving father and farther away from the forefront of my mind. Her life has ended, but my life goes on. And because of this, the chasm of time that separates us grows larger. Each day I live I must flip through more and more pages of memories to find my memories of my mother.
I try so hard to remember her. I wish my mind could catalog every wise or funny or loving thing she ever said to me. I wish I could still hear her voice, smell her perfume, or eat her cooking. I miss her wit and off-color humor. I miss her faith, her honesty, and how easy it was to talk to her. I miss her sage advice and how comfortable her hugs were. I miss what it felt like to still have that maternal anchor.
Now my mother resides in dreams and memories—dreams that make the impossible possible. Dreams that nonchalantly bring the dead into my dream life and never once hint at the improbability of the encounter. But dreaming about the deceased brings with it a requisite sadness and a secondary loss. We cannot dwell in our dreams or make them last longer; oftentimes we can’t even return to the same trail of surreal thought. We are roused to the veracity of what cannot be. It was just a dream, and we must now awaken to the sad truth of reality: the dead remain in their graves, unable to embrace the living. But be this as it may, I still love dreaming about my mother. I find those dreams sad and wonderful—precious and hard like diamonds, and just as beautiful.