meaning of dreams

Hamlet, I, 5 - Hamlet and the ghost.

Image via Wikipedia

Can’t remember whose theory on dreams and the subconscious gave the most weight to the symbolic nature of the people, objects and situations that make up the scenery of our nightly home movies.

I blame Pat Robertson and the Progressive Left in any case for last night’s visitation regardless.

Normally, my dreams are populated only with people I know and the setting is most often a variation of the town where I attended university or a school building I once worked in. I don’t know why and I haven’t bothered to research what it means or doesn’t.

Dead people seldom have starring roles in my dreams. If the departed do appear, they have cameos at best. But last night, Will showed up, which shouldn’t come as a surprise thanks to the Robertson faux uproar, but I have to be honest – I was surprised because he has only deigned to grace my dreams a handful of times in the past five plus years and never as more than a walk on. Ever.

I was back in school. It was – god help me – the 80’s with  clothing and the hair styles so jarring that I actually commented on it to another character completely out of context to the situation.

I found myself back on Currier E2 in my old corner room (minus the high-strung room-mate) and Will shows up to visit me for the weekend. And you could have knocked me over with a feather when I opened the door and it was him. Normally, it’s Rob who rides shot-gun in my dreams. Very seldom do I dream that Rob doesn’t figure at some or all points.

Here’s the odd thing – as if dreams with dead husbands stopping in for visit aren’t odd enough – he was not young. His hair was longer, curled like Dee’s does at the nape, around the ears and that same cowlick that drives her to distraction and salted with gray. His face was lined a bit and his goatee salted as well.

This has happened once before where someone who’s been gone a while showing up in a dream looking his real age. My Uncle Jim popped into a dream not long before Will and I married, looking very much like the 65-year-old man he would have been and not the 39-year-old man he was when he died.

When I asked him what he was doing there, he said,

“I thought I should visit now.”

I had been on my way out to meet friends, but his arrival prompted me to suggest we stay in. He didn’t want me to change plans. He would come along after he changed into a clean shirt.

He was not the 30-year-old I remembered from before the ravages of illness. More solid. A bit thicker and hairy, but not on the order of a grizzly.

Throughout I was aware that he shouldn’t have been there but I got no further explanation from him about why other than he deemed the visit “necessary”. I sorta felt like he was less happy to see me than I was to see him and that the visit wasn’t for pleasure but one of those dutiful things a person does.

He watched me with an appraising sort of look. He seemed tired as though he’d come a long distance to spend time with me, but whatever he’d left behind him was still on his mind. He mentioned at one point that he wouldn’t be able to stay for more than the night. He had to get back. I didn’t ask where or why, and he didn’t volunteer any more information.

I’ve thought about it all day and I can’t figure out why – after all these years – he put in an actual appearance in my dreams. He has never felt the need before. It has a ghost of Hamlet’s father feel to it. Blunted purpose chiding? Perhaps.

Last night Rob and I watched a movie in bed as is our Saturday night wont. The film of choice was Hugh Grant’s About a Boy, which I had not seen. It was cute and coincidentally thematically related to a post I was updating for submission over at 50 something Moms.

The basic story line was about two boys, one a grown 38 and the other a growing 12. Both were odd, marching distinctly out of step. Neither had much by way of a support system in terms of extended family or friends and by chance, they find each other through a series of odder events and by the end of the film have helped each other fill in the missing links in their lives. Like I said, it was cute and mildly poignant.

This morning after being awakened at 7:30 by DNOS who was just getting around to returning a Christmas day phone call, Rob says,

“I had the weirdest dream last night.”

Rob is one of those people who claims to rarely dream and when he does, he almost never remembers the content beyond the feelings it evoked.

“Weird how?”

“Well, I think that movie must be the root cause because I dreamt I was a millionaire playboy.”

In the film, Grant’s character lives idly off the royalties of a mega-one hit wonder Christmas tune written in the 1950’s by his father.

“Really, what else?”

“Oh well,”he got a little sheepish in tone and then,”I sex with some girl who was trying to get me to marry her.”

It’s only a dream but a woman only wants to hear that her man is having sex dreams about her, and despite the fact the night before I’d dreamed about some strange man massaging my bum, I was a bit jealous.

“That’s out of character for you.”

“I can’t always dream about chopping wood and geo-thermal energy.”

He had me there. I dream like most people watch tv, which is constantly, and I never dream about the practical or the earth saving.

Lately I have been dreaming I am back in university. They are not the typical dreams one has of being back in school. I am not late for a test or trying to drop a class I didn’t know I had or have never been to in order to avoid a failing grade. And I am not naked despite the fact that in several of these dreams I appear to be married or dating Rob – who I not only didn’t know existed back in my real university days, but who was actually married himself at that time and a father of two. In these dreams I am not searching or being pursued. The scenarios are really quite mundane. Going to classes. Working in the dormitory dining hall. Hanging out. Walking around. There is a lot of walking from here to there. Up and down unfamiliar streets, running into people known to me at that time and from my present life as well. One dream stood out for its “dream-like” quality though. I was questing with a group of people – a mix of then and now – in an underground labyrinth straight out of World of Warcraft, creatures and all. And I was pregnant and if that isn’t classic dream-speak, what is? That one memorable dream aside, there is nothing spectacular about these university dreams except for the one constant in all of them. My friend Leslie.


I haven’t seen or heard from Leslie in pretty close to ten years now even though I am almost certain she still lives in Iowa City and is still involved in the art community there. I can’t say really why we fell out of touch. I think though it may have had a lot to do with the fact that by our late twenties/early thirties it was clear that she was the hip in crowd girl who had managed to parlay her bohemian college persona into a  Sex minus the City type while I was just a spinsterish Midwestern school marm.


Even in our college days, we were an unlikely friendship match. We met as residents on East 2 of Currier Hall. My roommate was a hometown friend of hers and she lived next door to Sarah, a high school friend of mine. She was a year younger chronologically and years older in style and deportment. Impossibly beautiful with apple cheeks and a rounded nose that most of us outgrow, she smiled from deep inside in a way that produced a magnetic aura. A dancer for years, she was lean and willowy and long. Long neck. Long arms. Longer legs. She would dress herself in thrift shop finds that I don’t imagine mere mortal people ever run across. When I would peruse the thrift store with her, I would find old bowling shirts and men’s suit coats that looked stolen from mortuaries. She would find some darling little Audrey Hepburn cocktail dress.


Still, we called ourselves the “happy co-eds”. The punch line of running joke we had come up with on the way back to the dorm from the library one evening before we realized that if we wanted to accomplish anything by way of study that perhaps we shouldn’t go to the library together. We wasted more time at the library writing mildly pornographic Shakespearean sonnets and talking about boys then we did anything else there. One poem – which I think I still might have somewhere – spoke of “moist loins” and “yielding maidenhoods” was typical of the direction conversations would often turn. I think she was the one who coined the phrase “lost the power of speech” when speaking about sex. As in “he was so good, I lost the power of speech” or “so, did you lose your power of speech with SoNSo last night?” It was from an article in Cosmo magazine that detailed what happens to men and women during an orgasm. According to this article, people lost the power of speech when climaxing. Of course, we found this extremely funny and just a little bit scary and we had little actual experience on which to gauge the veracity of the information. I remember her telling me some time after this that it was only partially true. Her boyfriend’s roommate walked in on them one afternoon during an oral moment, and she related that while she couldn’t verbalize anything coherently – she made herself understood.


Leslie lived the kind of life that the really cool characters in books and movies always seemed to have. The eclectic dwelling spaces with the quirky roommates. Better Funky Homes and Movies Set Gardens décor that she found at estate sales the way she stumbled across clothing finds at the thrift shop. The people she knew were in bands. They were artists and writers and activists. She had cool jobs in galleries or jewelry shops. And men straight out of romance novels pursued her. There was the pottery-making Scotsman from Edinbourough. A gay cheerleader who coveted her natural coolness to camouflage his completely artificial exterior. Her own boyfriend was a former body building interior designer who paid his bills plying the student population with all manner of recreational pharmaceuticals. Not cool in retrospect but in the mid-1980’s that sort of thing still seemed harmless in a TV sitcom sort of way. When we were all still living in the dorm, he did business right out of his room. I sat and watched he and his partner one day as they did their books and remarked that the little ledger would make some prosecuting attorney’s job all that easier someday. The looks on both their faces spoke volumes. Good little Gordon Gecko’s that they were it hadn’t occurred to them that what they say as just good business was a well-spring of potential trail evidence. I never saw that ledger again.


Of all the people I knew in school, and I knew many, many people although I can’t say that too many knew me, she was the one who was the least put off by my sometimes shell-shocked drifting through life exterior. I spent most of my time in university recovering from my teens and shaking off the years I had lived in the shadow of alcoholism. My standard survival mode was turtle and even during college I seldom poked my head out too far. Then, as now even at times, my preferred method of communication was writing. I was still writing. I hadn’t yet been told I wasn’t good enough, often enough, to put it away completely. While my other friends hadn’t time to sit and talk about things other than the guys they liked and the sex they were having and the parties they were going to, Leslie’s worldview was so blinkered. That I was bookish and quiet and needed instruction in things like hair, make-up and clothing – were not things that bothered her. I got the distinct impression from others that I was a bit hopeless that I didn’t get from her.


Over the years, I have tried to track her down. But she moved around a bit and eventually unlisted herself. During Google searches I would occasionally turn up evidence that she was still creating her metal creations and showing them in the various galleries in the area that would crop up and go out of business with regularity. She got involved in metalworking in between a series of aborted attempts to find a “real” career to please her family. I think she began as a dentistry student. At one point she may have been half-heartedly studying chemistry too. But it was the dance classes, the photography and finally metalworking that called to her loudly enough to drown out the Iowa practicality and the Catholic schoolgirl obedience. In a way, I think that was the thing about her that appealed to me most and that I most envied. She didn’t succumb to the “you need something to fall back on” mentality that we are all beaten into submission with by our parents and society. She followed her instincts and did what made her happy. And in the end I can’t really say that I would have been as content if I’d never been a teacher but stayed and gone to graduate school, as she did, and wrote. Rob made the comment to me the other day that I had suppressed my writing side for a long time and though that is a little true, what is probably closer to reality is that my inner writer was waiting for me to grow into myself. One must have confidence in oneself to chase after a goal like the one I have set for myself.  I was too shy and uncertain of myself way back then to have withstood the criticism and the failures that are inevitable. My metal needed tempering.


Perhaps the meaning of Leslie is what she represented back then. An inner truth to stay true to. Dreams are not random as life is not random.