A Most Wonderful Dream
by Suzanne Stroh

I have just had the most wonderful dream and while it’s fresh I wanted to tell you about it. In order for it to make sense, you need some background. You need to know how the detritus of other days combined with the kaleidoscopic colors of memory, experience, longing, and finally, I suppose, a dose of magic. Let us return to two days ago. On that day I had the task of moving a number of boxes of old photographs and other memorabilia out of my basement in preparation for some re-modeling. I wasn’t looking forward to the task. I envisioned that it could be difficult because those boxes hold reminders of so much that has been important in my life and so much of it what is gone. But I fired up my iPod with zippy salsa music and made my way through most of the task. And yet, at times, as I suspected it would be, it was difficult.

There were the love letters, even the love notes from my son’s father on folded, lined paper that he passed to me in class. His high school fraternity pin lay in a tiny box cradled in rumpled tissue paper. In the same box with the love letters was a pizza crust in an old napkin on which I had penned “Granata’s pizza” and a date from some long forgotten but apparently special occasion. That I threw away, but not the pin, but not the letters. I had been intending to show them to my son when he grew up. I never got to because he died before I had the chance.

The high school era was also represented by three large, worn sorority scrapbooks, one of which I, as “historian”, had made and had totally forgotten. It was full of smiling pictures, silly slogans, dance programs, construction paper cutout hearts, and references to who was going steady with whom. This was a long time before “scrapbooking” as we know it now! One of those scrapbooks was from the year when my now-best friend was president of the sorority. There she sits, sultry and sleepy looking with a caption that reads, “Our Prez”. I can’t wait to show it to her.

I decided not to tackle looking through the box upon box of loose pictures but I did peek into many albums. I couldn’t resist looking at the one that chronicled my first wedding. Because I have recently become acquainted with the woman who now owns the house in which I grew up and where many of the pictures were taken, I was curious to see evidence of how the house looked then and now. Well, all right, that wasn’t all I was curious about. There I am as a pretty, ridiculously young bride resplendent in my white dress, elbow-length gloves, veil, and trail. There is my high school sweetheart smiling shyly in his white tuxedo jacket about to become a married man. There are the lifelong friends who were my bridesmaids, including one who has served in that role more than once. There are my smiling relatives including several who are no longer with us- the beloved uncle who gave me away and a cousin as dear to me as any brother could be. Although that marriage was not destined to last, I did not feel sad or bitter as I looked at the pictures, just a warm sense of nostalgia. After all, this dear first love was the father of my child.

Other albums chronicled other relationships. But the one that shined with love so clearly that I had to rescue it from the basement and bring it up to my office was the chronicle of my love affair and marriage to my late husband, Bill. Looking at the pictures I felt warmed. Bill is always smiling in those pictures. His arms are always around me or he holds my hand. I remember how his mother used to call us the Velcro Kids because we were always touching each other. He looks at me with obvious adoration; it practically oozes from his face, from his whole being. I look as contented as a purring cat. I had never felt so completely enfolded in love as I did with him. In the pages of the album I see him young, virile, strong, and healthy. And I also see pictures showing him starting to gain weight and of signs of strain on his face. How much of that was normal aging and how much was his silent, deadly illness I will never know.

The rest of what I found in my treasure hunt in the basement is not relevant to the dream I had tonight. You know enough now to understand it. Scene one: I am involved in some kind of a problem, which results in a jury trial. (This bit of detritus may have come from my very recent jury service, which I neglected to mention to you). I am in a courtroom. For reasons I don’t know, I am acting as my own attorney. As I look towards the bench, I see a very handsome, bespectacled judge in his black robe leaning his cheek casually on his hand. There is something familiar about that gesture and that face! As I address him as “Your Honor” I register that he is looking at me very attentively with just a trace of a smile curving his lips. It is as if he knows some kind of secret. It dawns on me that he looks just like Bill. I don’t mean a resemblance, I mean just like him. How can this be I think? Bill is dead. Scene two: I am out in the country in a car, perhaps the 944 Porsche we both drove. I am struggling to get out of it. The person I think is Bill is in his black robes standing on a grassy hill a little above where I am. I am with a man in the car. He seems distressed. It is not clear who he is or what his relationship with me is but it doesn’t matter. All I know is that I have to get out of the car and get to the person I think might be Bill. I become frantic. I struggle and pound on the doors and windows. Finally, after a lot of effort I dislodge the rubber seal from around the back window, pop it out, and crawl out. I run up the hill towards the black-clad figure who stands in profile. I throw my arms around him. Noticing that black and red cowboy boots protrude from under the robes I know that this would be Bill’s version of appropriate judicial footwear. All I can say as I look up at him is, “Bill?????????? The smile he beams at me could light a good- sized city. It is the same crooked smile he smiled at me for so long, the one he wears in so many of the pictures in my album. “Yes, its me.” he says quietly. He folds me in an embrace that goes on for what seems like a long, long time. My eyes are filled with happy tears. He goes on to tell me that after he died he went into something akin to a Witness Protection Program and assumed a new identity. He says he likes being a judge but he misses me terribly, has been waiting for me. Scene three: We are reunited as a couple on August 11, 2007, my birthday, and all is well.

And then I woke up. I was smiling. Really, I was. I felt exhilarated. It was wonderful to see Bill, to find him again. It was wonderful to see him well and happy. It was wonderful to again feel his love pouring over and through me. Thus is the power of dreams: to restore and intensify the image of lost loved ones to perfect health and happiness, to bring you again the feelings you miss. To revise your story so that only the best parts carry forward, the not so good images landing on the cutting room floor of memory. In this way, our dreams can be healing and comforting, uplifting, and affirming.

But there is potentially more. I subscribe to the idea that dreams may carry thematic content whose implications go beyond the obvious story line and may have much to teach us. As I replayed my wonderful dream I wondered what it’s thematic and symbolic messages might be. It occurred to me that finding Bill might be not so much about him personally. It could be that finding him represented finding true, satisfying, and affirming Love. Acting as my own attorney in the courtroom scene may have been a message that taking charge of and presenting my case is up to me. The man in the car might represent the people and situations that must be left behind to reach that ineffable Love. The difficulties connected with breaking free of the car were perhaps about the many barriers to reaching the goal and how important it is to persevere. There are so many possibilities I could consider. But I could also simply choose to stay with the lovely story played out in the dream. The richest and best dreams have sufficient layers and nuance to allow this.

Perhaps you have never had that kind of dream experience, but I hope that you have. If you haven’t, I hope you will someday, because when you do, if you do, you will have a most wonderful dream. May you enjoy it thoroughly and wake from it smiling. Perhaps you will find thematic and symbolic meaning in its twists and turns, and fantastic jutxtapostions. Perhaps you won’t. It is really not necessary. Waking up with a smile will be more than enough.


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