All my life I have had dreams about houses. I was probably about 23-years-old when I noticed that the dreams had a connecting theme, though the houses, which I dreamed of, were all different. I can vividly remember a few of them, though there were many more that have slipped my mind, and I am sure even more that did not survive waking.
One was a house I had briefly visited. I had been working as a stringer for the university newspaper, and was assigned to interview the owners on a subject totally unrelated to their unique home. They lived in a reproduction of an old gambrel barn. It was located in a place that no farmer would ever think of building a barn. Perched high over a rushing stream on a rocky outcrop, the structure commanded a dramatic view of a small gorge. The barn was pierced with many windows from which you could see the rolling foothills of the area, which made it seem that you were in the mountains, rather than just in a bit of rough terrain far from the Blue Ridge. I fell in love with the structure. As I was living in a small duplex on a crowded street at the time, I envied they their space and solitude.
Another house was the home of one of my relatives. The funny thing was that it wasn’t any house they had ever lived in. Somehow in my dream I had uprooted my uncle and aunt from Texas and put them in a nice ranch style house in Florida. I was living in a small apartment in Florida at the time. In my dream; I bought the house after their youngest child had married and moved away. I guess they were down-sizing in my dream. In life, with all the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren visiting, I don’t think they ever downsized.
As a Marine Surveyor and as a Merchant Mariner I often found myself living in hotel rooms while on jobs or when searching for my next ship. When I was searching for ships, I was usually tapped out and lived in the cheapest accommodations I could find. Later when I was traveling as a Marine Surveyor my clients made sure I was housed in nice hotels, but still I often had a house dream when living in a small room somewhere.
Only once did a house repeat, and it wasn’t exactly a house. In that dream I had bought a small motel, again in Florida. The gist of the dream was that I was renovating the motel into a private residence. I guess there are no zoning laws in dreams. I was over joyed at all the rooms I would have to fill with my stuff when the renovation was over. The second dream didn’t come until years later, but it seemed to pick up right were the first one left off. Of course, the second dream was moving in and finding places for all my stuff.
While I was in college and for a short time after I got out. My mother rented two nice little single family homes from her brother. I don’t remember exactly when she moved from the first one to the other, but I remember them both fondly. I know she missed them when we moved to Florida, so I could ship out of the Jacksonville union hall.
These two houses morphed into one in the dream. Together they made a lot of great space. In my dream my aunt and uncle had left quite a lot of things, saying that I could keep them. In the waking world houses, they had left a few things, but in the dream house it was a mass of things including furniture, crystal vases, silverware, and dishes that were not to my taste, but I felt I had to incorporate into my things so that I didn’t hurt my relatives’ feelings.
These were the houses I remember most vividly, though there were many others.
When I dreamed of the various houses, I was either renovating them to move in, I was moving in, or both. I have often wondered how I was able to dream such long and detailed dreams in a single night. My mind must have been racing. Inside my dream it seemed as if I were living many days. Family, friends, and those strangers, who seem to populate my dreams, were all helping me to move in. The strangers in my dreams are interesting. I have no idea who they are in my waking hours. When I am inside the dream, I know them very well. But I do digress. The subject here is the houses.
The with the help of these others I carefully found places to stow all my things. Like a commander I constantly explained where things were to go and how I wanted them placed. Many times I told my companions to just place boxes in various rooms so that I could unpack them later.
There is one more thing that happened in every dream, which I have left out for dramatic effect. In each and every dream, just as I was getting frustrated at where to put things, I would find a room or rooms I had not known about or that I had somehow forgotten. The barn had a roomy dry basement. The motel had a back side, which I had forgotten about. Yes, my dream-self is rather scanty in the brain department. The two houses merged into one, were connected by a secret door. In my aunt and uncle’s house, which never was, there was a bedroom, bath, and sitting room at the far end that for some unknown reason I kept forgetting about. Each dream ended when I realized that I had enough room for my stuff.
I was in my 30s before I ever told anyone about these dreams. It took me that long to realize that they had a common thread. I used to dream almost every night, so the house dreams were mixed up with so many other story lines they didn’t stand out until they stopped for a while. I had finally moved into a nice sized home with plenty of space for me, mother, and my husband. It did have a secret space, but it was only a hidden compartment in a wall behind a built-in cabinet, which was only two-foot by two-foot by four-foot, only large enough for Christmas decorations. I was still thrilled to find it.
When showed my mother the secret compartment, I told her about my house dreams. She laughed and told me that she too had dreamed of houses all her life. Hers were different from mine, but I am still find it striking that we both dreamed of houses.
Mother’s dreams were always of one magical house. She said that when she dreamed, nothing in the dreams seemed strange to her dream-self. She said that the house was her childhood home and she was always eager to rush through the front door, as if she were coming home from a long journey. When she opened the door she was rarely ever in her childhood home, or even in a front room. The room behind the door was never fixed in time or space. She might find her mother cooking dinner in the kitchen, telling one of the other children to run tell Papa to come in that the meal was about ready, or she might find herself in the small room she had shared with her friends when they were being trained to work in the aircraft plant during the war.
Some times she played a role in the scene, and others she just passed through unseen. Regardless of whether she was in an active or passive role, she tended to stay for a while enjoying herself, before exiting the room.
When she opened the next door, she would find herself in a room from a different house, and always in a different year. All the rooms she found were ones she had once known. From her mother’s kitchen she might find herself in her oldest daughter’s bedroom as she was getting ready for her first date. She would get help her daughter get dressed for her date, but when she followed the girl out the bedroom door, the girl was gone and she found herself in another place and time.
Mother said that she loved those dreams. She loved visiting with people who had passed many year before. She loved seeing loved-ones who were far away. She loved reliving some of the highlights of her life. If she stumbled into a room with a scene she didn’t want to relive, she stepped back. As she turned she wasn’t in the room she had left, but another one. She was always eager to open each door and find out who was waiting for her.
I never asked her, but I wonder if she ever entered the future. I wonder if she got to see the things people think she has missed by leaving us. I sort of hope that her heaven is a house where she can wander from room to room and never find one of the ones she doesn’t want to see.
I don’t have my house dreams any more. I can’t say that I miss them. I suspect that getting rid of so much of my stuff, always making sure that the space I live in is not overcrowded keeps them at bay. I have had one dream lately that I took notice of. In this dream I am unpacking my backpack. As I work I place things in three piles. In one pile are the things I used on my trip, the second pile are things I didn’t need and am sure I will never need. The third is the pile of things I never used, but I still worry that I might one day need.
I start looking through the first pile checking each thing out, wondering if the item could be replaced by a lighter one or if it needs to be replaced because it is wearing out. I make notes of my findings, as I pack the items back into packing cubes to be returned to the backpack. When I am done I look at the third pile for a moment, before adding it to the second. I find a cardboard box for the rejected items to be donated, and pack them away. After I zip up my backpack, I take out my small travel scale and weigh the bag; 15 pounds! I am overjoyed.
I wonder if the joys of packing light are going to be the subject a new sequence of dreams, or if packing right to start with will keep them at bay?