The wind beats against my face as I survey the land below me from a tree limb. I don’t know how I got up here, but what’s stranger still is that I’m not afraid. My fear of heights should be causing havoc within me right now. Shortness of breath, dizziness, a stomach full of knots.
Instead I feel…free. Giddy, even.
No one’s in the tree with me. In fact, I don’t see anyone around for miles. Besides a few other trees congregating around the one I cling to, there are just fields and hills and clouds and wind. I breathe deeply and lean against the trunk.
And then, a gut-wrenching scream erupts around me.
It echoes throughout the valley, rattling the birds nested nearby. They answer with their own screeching and soon take flight around me in a chaotic cluster of feathers and flapping.
I scan the ground for the owner of the scream, while wondering if I should stay safe on my branch or look for a way to get down and help. Help who? I have no idea, but I’ve never known a scream to mean a good thing.
Another wail rings out, louder and more persistent than the last. It makes the ground tremble and the sunlight falter. Fear finally wraps around me, but it’s still not driven by how high I’m off the ground. My thoughts cling to the peacefulness of the world only seconds ago, but it’s been lost in the disruption of shrieks that continues to rain down on me, like thunder reincarnated.
For a few more moments, I don’t know where I am, who I am.
Then I notice something as my hand flicks across the bark of my tree sanctuary. The depth of the shadows is too deep, the fullness of the light unearthly. And with these small observations, the world around me unravels like a coil of thread, losing its shape until only the bare spool is left.
The dream world is filtered out by my stirring consciousness. Like a drain at the back of my head, the colors, the sounds, the feelings of the fantasized world all drip, drip, drip out of me.
I know where I am.
I slide an arm out to my right and find warm skin, a rising chest. Before I can shake my husband, another scream rattles me awake even further.
And I know who I am.
I hurry out of bed, navigating around laundry baskets and abandoned shoes on my way to her room.
Nudging the door open, her crying transforms into a desperate sort of prayer.
Mummm-maaaaa! she pleads.
For a mere second I hesitate. Instead of picking her up like she wants, I want to wail with her. I miss my sleep, my dreams. I miss peace and quiet and the responsibility of only choosing things for myself. I feel the monumental task it is to raise another human being, and I dress myself in doubt.
But when she reaches for me again, with damp cheeks and longing in her eyes, I pick her up and fold her into me.
The peace returns then.
Lowering us down into a rocking chair, she fidgets only a few moments more until she finds a comforting spot in my arms. The tension slips off of her like bed sheet in the night, and her face relaxes.
I study her sun-kissed cheeks in the glow of the moonlight, her shock of blond hair that tumbles down toward her eyes. For the first time, it’s long enough to do that, and I’m momentarily overwhelmed with this simple fact. That soon it will grow longer and need cut. First, I will make the choices of when and how, and then, somehow, just as one goes from crawling to walking to running, it will pass from me to her, until it all does. Until she’s lying in her own house in her own bed dreaming dreams that are interrupted by the cries of her own child.
I clutch her closer now, hoping that time won’t find us here. That we can stay this way forever, just me and her. I want it so bad, my heart flickers in pain from the yearning.
She is my bare spool. She is what is left when the dreaming falls away, but there is so much more left to show her, to teach her. To fill her spool with her own dreams, her own magical world.
I settle into the chair, prepared to succumb to sleep once more. I’m fairly certain I won’t dream again the rest of the night, but maybe she will.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
THOUGHT PROCESS: I came up with the idea when I was woken up by my daughter crying in the night (imagine that!) Firstly, I was intrigued with just the concept of dreams and how real they can feel in some ways, but also fake is others (like, a lot of times in my dreams, I’m braver than I am in real life). After that thought, I was also fascinated with that short amount of time between being in a dream and waking from one. How you feel so confused about where you are or even who you are. Your mind works fast to fill in the holes, but there is that slight moment where you utterly don’t know. The final part of the story goes into the struggles I face as a mother, those brief but jarring moments where you aren’t sure you can handle the responsibility of another person forever. Sometimes it’s downright daunting. But when you take them in your arms, everything in the world seems right…and you go on with determination and a renewed sense of confidence. In the end, it was a bit shorter than I was hoping for, but I think I captured a slight sliver of those moments in life.