And I never, ever, ever, ever have dreams about her. It’s like my subconscious has thrown all of my childhood into a deep hole, and has been frantically shoveling dirt over it all these years. It’s disappearing- a little more each year, like a dream after waking. I’d better write it all down, before I can’t remember any of it.
In the dream last night I was in Alaska, only it was the Alaska of my internal pop-culture encyclopedia- it was cold winter and everyone wore brightly colored parkas with lush hoods trimmed in wolverine fur. In the hoods they carried babies. The babies wore halos of staticky brown hair and were dressed in miniature parkas trimmed with rick-rack. We were in a church, waiting for the service. I had a Friend with me, not someone I know from real life, but a Dream Extra playing the part of a Friend. There was free food at the church, and my Friend went off in search of it and returned to our pew holding a soggy paper plate of coleslaw. My mother was there too, sitting with us in the church. She was the way I remember her in her thirties- tall (to me) and built like a bunch of twigs prone to snapping. Her hair was long and black, a handful of it held at the back of her head with a metal barrette. She was wearing a green blouse from the era when “blouses” were really what all the women wore- it was gathered here and puffed there, buttoned with cheap pearly buttons and tucked into her dark stonewash jeans. In fact, she looked about the way she looks in the only photograph I have of the two of us together- I am three years old, and she has me balanced on her hip in my Grandmother’s kitchen. My noodly arms are wrapped around her, and my light hair frizzes out from my head. She is smiling her big bright smile, the one I always thought made her look like Julia Roberts. A little too much gum, but very pretty.
So in my dream she is the mother from the photograph. The same age I am now. And we are sitting together in church, in our lush winter parkas, waiting for the service to start. And I have come all the way to Alaska, with my Friend, just to see her. And in my dream she’s not crazy. She’s lucid, and clear headed, if a bit weary. Some deep, sane memory-part of my mother, visiting me via dream. And she seems distant, unable to concentrate on me, and my need for attention. I am leaning up against her, clutching her cold hand, the fingertips stained yellow from chain smoking. I’m being clingy, leaning into her, and telling her that I love her and miss her. And she looks at me with her clear, distant eyes that say-
You don’t need me Jenni, you can make it on your own.
And I say-
I know mom, I know.
And this goes on while we wait for the service to start and the church fills up with people, and my mother anxiously watches them file in, looking for seats in the crowded pews. Some of them are staring at us, so we decide to sing a hymn, but I am off key. My friend wants to talk about where we will sit on the plane. We have to leave soon to catch our flight. And I lean against my mother’s fragile form, where it rests deep in her parkas, and smell her white shoulders perfume. And I know that she’s there with me, that she’s not off in some swirling vortex inside her head. But she keeps looking away, with that self-centeredness I remember in her from when I was very small, that refusal to every really be a mother. And with her eyes she keeps saying- you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine. And I say- I know, I know. I love you.