Thursday, January 24, 2013
MEMORIES AND DREAMS
By Gary Carden
Sometimes, when I wake up in this old dilapidated farmhouse in Rhodes Cove, I smell my grandmother’s biscuits and hear the coffee pot chugging on the Home Comfort stove in the kitchen. I’ve learned the hard way that , actually, I am alone here, except for Jack, my jack russell and Booger, my senile cat. There were mornings a decade ago when I used to get my pants on and walk cautiously to the kitchen, half-believing that Agnes Carden would be there, putting a plate of biscuits in the warming closet and stirring a pan of milk gravy while she hummed “I Come to the Garden Alone.” I always found a cold and empty room with only the smell of sour milk and Booger’s cat food.
Dreams are tricksters, you know. They are crafty and deceitful, full of comforting lies. That doesn’t mean that they are bad. Maybe the right word is “therapeutic” or “palliative.” I think that their purpose is to reassure me ... to tempt me to wrap myself in my electric blanket and burrow a little deeper (into what could be my grandmother’s quilts) as a spring morning in 1952 unfolds. If I listen carefully (Of course, my friends know that I am deaf without my “ear button), I will hear my grandfather return from milking the cow. My uncle Albert will finally awake complaining about headaches and insomnia. Someone, (probably me) turns on the old Silvertone radio and Reed Wilson, the announcer at WWNC begins playing Guy Lombardo and Artie Shaw. That is when I helplessly drop into a world that is a memory wrapped in a dream.
Why, out of all of the thousands of days and nights, why am I dreaming of a spring morning in 1952 when my memory (and there is the other crafty trickster) whispers “relish these sounds and smells. They may not come again.” In retrospect, I belatedly realize that I was probably happy then. I didn’t know it, of course and spent much of my time grieving for the heart of a cold-hearted cheerleader. Also, I now realize that I usually dreamed of being a teenager. One of my favorites is: I find myself in my grandfather’s ’51 Chevrolet, speeding up the old Waynesville road towards Balsam Gap. The car is filled with the smell of Old Spice and I’m wearing my black slacks with the pink pleat (that is true! I am embarrassed by my Jimmy Dean hairdo) and a white pullover corduroy shirt with the collar turned up (just like Jimmy Dean). It is night and I am on my way to pick up my date, Polly. Randy’s Record Mart is on full-blast and the Dreamweavers are singing “It’s Almost Tomorrow,” and I am singing along:
Its almost tomorrow, but what can I do?
Your kisses all tell me that your love is untrue.
But this is the strange part of this dream. I never get to Polly’s house. We never get to the party at Balsam Gap. The entire dream consists of going, going, going and the Dreamweavers keep singing. But, I never get there. Even so,I always wake up feeling refreshed and hopeful. I guess this is what Joseph Campbell meant when he said, “The joy is in the journey, not in reaching the destination.”
In dreams I also revisit my disappointments: the girls who ignored me (and there were a lot); the jobs I lost and the plans that didn’t work out. But in these dreams, I get a second chance. Quince Ann and Doris take my hand and stare at me worshipfully and a half-dozen high school principals and college deans smile as they say “Good job, Carden.” In my dreams, all of my mistakes vanish, and I bask in the warmth of approval. Perhaps that is what dreams/memory are for. Memory erases the shameful moments that reveal just how unlovable we were....how lacking in courage and/or grace. They replace it with something witty and clever that you said, a courageous act you performed.
So, here I am back in that same cold bed. I have lost my teeth and my hearing, but I am emerging from a dream in which I did something remarkable like...doing the tango at the Junior-Senior Prom to thunderous applause ... or I accepted the Teacher of the Year Award at the White House... or I punched out that sneering drunk at Troy’s Drive-In. (Actually, he punched me out in front of my friends, one of which later said, “Gary, when he hit you the second time, it made me so mad, I almost got out of the car.”
I suspect that there is something maternal and nurturing about these tricksters. Maybe they are in league and they are dedicated to comforting you, even if they have to fabricate a bit. Maybe they come in your sleep and whisper, “You weren’t so bad, kid. You deserve a bit of joy, even if we have to make it up. Now, let’s revisit the Senior Trip to Washington in 1953 and make you the mythical lover you were meant to be.”