My husband has the most exciting dreams. They are action adventures like something out of a James Bond or Tarzan movie – oftentimes both. They involve racecars and roller coasters and swinging on vines throughout a rainforest. He’ll often describe them in detail the next morning.
Sometimes I can tell he’s in the middle of one of his dreams because he moves slightly in his sleep. His feet twitch or his hands wiggle. I wonder what sort of adventure he is on. I know I shouldn’t wake him; that would be mean. But sometimes I can’t help myself. My curiosity gets the best of me.
I tap him ever so gently on the shoulder, whisper his name and ask, “What are you dreaming about?”
His answers are brief. Things like “biking” or “climbing a mountain” or “flying.”
He’s brief because he is sleeping – still engaged in his adventuresome dream. I imagine he has quite an imagination. I suppose we all do when uninhibited by the factor of sleep.
My dreams are much less exciting than my husband’s. I still dream about school sometimes. Many of us have experienced the proverbial school dream/ nightmare. I’m there on the first or second day and I don’t have my schedule or locker combination or maybe both. It’s discombobulating. I try to find the office to get another copy but I keep getting lost. The hallways are an empty labyrinth of lockers and tile.
And the people who show up in my dreams, in a word, are random. Someone I once knew in a history class back in high school might have a starring role in a dream, never to be seen or heard from ever again. Often, I have strangers in my dreams or at least I think they are strangers. They could be some random co-workers from my first job at the Dairy Queen who I’ve forgotten everywhere but in the subconscious. Dreams are weird that way.
You don’t have to be an adult to dream. Experts theorize babies dream, beginning at birth. Of course, their material is limited due to the limited scope of their earthly experiences. Still, they dream about something; we just don’t know what.
When he was just an itty bit, son number two experienced some of the scariest of dreams: night terrors. He’d sit up in bed, eyes wide open, sometimes screaming, sometimes crying out but always afraid and always asleep – wide eyes and all. We learned not to try to wake him, but to hold him gently and keep him safe. Not to shout his name but to repeat it quietly. Usually, he’d wake up, remembering nothing of his terrifying experience.
He outgrew his sleep terrors. Thank goodness for that. But he still dreams. We all do. It’s part of the human condition. It’s our way of fleshing out and sorting through the experiences we encounter while awake. We relive and rehash and reimagine the real and not so real. The rules of everyday logic and life don’t exist in the land of dreams – where six-foot tall men, like my husband, can fly.
At my house we are experiencing a new generation of dreamers. My granddaughter dreams. I’ve watched her. I wonder what her brain ponders during the blanket of sleep. I always assumed she dreams about the things she knows, the things experts would agree upon: hunger, warmth, kindness, pacifiers and wet diapers. But this week, when she was here and napping, her little feet were twittering. Her tiny hands were moving – just like someone else I’ve observed sleeping. As I contemplated her movements, I came to the logical conclusion: maybe she is flying. How cool would that be?
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.