Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dream a Little Dream

C in the crib--legs attached!

Why I don’t watch horror movies or read creepy books: nothing can top my nightmares for terrifying.  I can honestly say that I have never, as far as I can remember, had a happy dream. Even as a small child, I dreamed I went to take my baby sister C out of her crib in the morning—and I lifted her right off her legs. When I was pregnant with Sheridan, I had a vivid dream. I had the baby, brought him home, and he was really little (I mean like 3 inches long). Later in the dream, I accidentally vacuumed him up off the floor. Imagine my relief when Mr. 7 lbs 10 oz. came along a few months later—not a chance of him landing in a Bissell bag!

Since the deaths of three close family members (my parents and sister), I dream about each of them at least four or five times a week. They are always in some kind of danger, and I am powerless to help them. In my sister Mo’s case, she is usually drowning and I am trying—and failing—to rescue her. Or I dream I am going somewhere important that involves climbing a steep ladder (wearing high heels, and the ladder is covered with ice) or crossing a rickety bridge over a very deep chasm. Here, my fear of not getting where I’m going in time is compounded by my terror of heights.

What do all these dire nocturnal imaginings have in common? Me, of course. It’s as if all my fears and phobias decided they can’t be contained in my waking hours, so they have to run rampant from midnight to dawn.

Over the years I’ve tried listening to soothing music, reading funny books before bed, leaving a light burning—nothing really helps. Most mornings I awake exhausted, feeling I’ve been fighting the forces of evil all night. It’s a heckuva way to begin a new day. 

When the children were small, they all had their bad dreams. But the only one who seemed to really tap into my special vein of misery was Evan.  He had night terrors from the age of nine months on. He’d scream, “Mommy!!” I’d come in to soothe him, and he’d back away as if I were a monster. “NO!!! I want Mommy!!” Even as I calmed and rocked him, I thought:  Chip off the old block, poor little thing.

Haven’t asked my offspring about their dreams lately. I’d love to picture them snoozing peacefully, rainbows and butterflies dancing in their heads.  But deep down I know better. Their probably tortured sleep is my unintended gift that keeps on giving. You’re welcome, kids!

So what do REM experiences mean? Are they Freudian subconscious desires? Who in their right mind would desire these crazy sleep visitors? Are they, as the Bible often chronicles, messages from God? In which case, Lord, please send me an email instead.

Oh well. It’s getting late. Here we go again.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Short and Sweet

Whenever someone recommends a “great read” to me, my first question is: how many pages?

For you see, I simply can’t concentrate on long narratives these days. Give me tiny gems of novels, powerful (and succinct) short stories, haiku instead of epic poem. My ideal book would have a very large font, lots of empty space, and pictures (sort of like Goodnight, Moon, only for adults). Some weeks, the sum total of my reading is a food blog for our dinner recipe, and the church bulletin. Keep it short and sweet, I say!

It’s a shame, because years ago I was the Queen of the Megabook.  Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Galsworthy, Dickens—I loved them all. Nothing pleased me more than plunging into a good loooong tale, with a complex plot and a flotilla of characters setting sail for adventure and conflict. I was the nerdy kid hunkered down in the school library with The Complete Works of Shakespeare, the strange one who packed more books than clothes for family vacations. I read (with pleasure) everything I could get my hands on, and retained a tremendous amount.  

When Rose was in third grade, we were part of a group who formed the area’s first Mother-Daughter Book Club. The girls made the reading selections each month, then we all read and discussed them.  This was a wonderful experience and right up my alley—who couldn’t keep track of the slim tomes chosen by 8 year olds?  As the years passed and tastes turned to lengthier Young Adult novels, I started to notice my focus slipping a bit, but I could still keep up with the group. Couldn’t nowadays, I’m afraid.

Mother Daughter Book Club Field Trip
Now, the masterful sentences and beautiful scenes seem to fade from memory instantly, and I have to quiz myself constantly to remember even the main character’s name, much less what he or she is up to. I belong to a neighborhood book club, and before we get together I cram, I highlight, I write little notes—all so that I can be even somewhat conversant about the volume of choice.  Here, I cheer when the book club selection comes in at 100 pages (up next month, alas, is a 500+ page behemoth. Perhaps I will skip that meeting.)

And not only am I personally drawn to brevity, I even assume my readership is similarly length-challenged.  I keep my blog posts to 500 words. My own books consist of two page essays.  Nothing wrong with that, right?

Right. But there are so many great works of literature that take their time unfolding, and I am missing out on them all.  ADHD is an issue with me, but it’s also my cop-out.

Maybe I’ll give it another shot. Maybe I’ll work my way up, 10 pages at a time, the way I worked up to a decent run from a few steps to two miles.  Anything is possible.

Will 2013 be the year of Proust’s  À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (4211 pages)? Stay tuned!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Borrowers

Has anybody seen my cardigan from LOFT? Didn’t you wear my red dress over Christmas? May I have my skinny jeans back, please?

Rose and newborn Julie--before the borrowing began
The Seyfrieds are The Borrowers. We help ourselves to one another’s bounty, sometimes without even asking (“she never wears it anyway”). Rose is notorious for arriving home from NYC with only her purse, proceeding to plunder Julie’s clothing collection while she’s here.  I have been known to swipe from the ever-fashionable Julie as well, I must admit (although I always—well, almost always—ask). The boys aren’t quite as bad as the girls, but even they have been known to “borrow” everything from sweaters and socks to belts and vests. PJ is currently missing his dress pants, and I am wondering if said pants are enjoying a Taiwan vacation with Sheridan at this very moment. Steve isn’t really a borrower, but an inheritor. He, like Sheridan, cares little for clothes, and has been known to sport an “Alaska” sweatshirt (mine) and a Navy issue turtleneck (Evan’s), warmth trumping style every single time. Surveying his wardrobe is a trip down memory lane, filled with things the children have discarded. As Steve has proven, there is no such thing as an unwanted clothing item. Purple Heart waits in vain for our cast-offs, because we never really cast them off.  

Evan in the infamous blue suit
When the kids were small, before they could snag their siblings’ coats and skirts for themselves, I did the honors for them. The very second Sheridan outgrew a fuzzy sleeper, there it appeared on baby Evan. I was delighted when PJ came along, so that now-matted and worn fuzzy sleeper could head into round three. My young sons were pretty oblivious to fashion trends then. Now, they are aghast at the photos of the sky-blue suit with short pants, and are retroactively mortified that they ever had to wear such silliness. Little Rose was the recipient of many a neighborhood hand-me-down, which only worked until her keen fashion sense kicked in at age three, at which time she refused to put on the jumper with the ducky pattern and the bright pink patent leather shoes. Rosie insisted on her own hand-selected tights and tee-shirts, which of course had zero appeal when Julie came along, and wreaked havoc on the budget. 

Now, however, we LOVE each other’s stuff.  With only the occasional skirmish we share and share alike. Holiday photos over the years attest to the snappy tie adorning, in turn, the necks of every man in the household.  As I write this, I am wearing a really cute shirt from Julie’s closet that I hope she’s forgotten she owns. I think of Jules as I wear it, and feel closer to her somehow. I wonder if the others feel a similar bond when sporting various family members’ clothes. 

 We’re so lucky to have as much as we do. Why not spread the joy around a bit?

 Although I would be thrilled to get my denim sundress back someday. Rose? Julie?