On Saturday morning I woke up and remembered a dream. I’m not sure how it works with dreams; I suppose it could be that people dream about the same amount more or less, or it might be that some people dream more than others. I either dream all the time and never remember, or I’m the kind of person who doesn’t dream that often. When I remember a dream it tends to become a memory, and I believe they do mean something, that they are some kind of working out of the stuff in your head.
My dream of Saturday morning was in my Gran’s house on Forfar Street in Mosgiel. I was in the living/dining room with my mother and we were looking at Gran’s things because she had died. My mother was a fairly indistinct presence, the dream was really focused on the room and the objects in it. I remember looking at the big, old gramophone and wanting to keep it to remind me of Gran, and then wondering if I could buy the house. Not much happened in the dream other than that, but it was moving to be allowed back into her house, and to see it how it was once again. Of course the dream didn’t make sense because before my Gran died she moved into another house, and then into a home, and I never went through her things with my mother (although I think my mother did with one of my Aunts).
The dream made me sad, but I knew what it meant.
Last holidays I went down to Dunedin to see my father’s sister. When I came back I wrote two posts about the trip and began to transcribe the tapes I made when I interviewed her. Then I stopped. I had intended to write about three more posts and to complete the transcribing. I think the dream was telling me to get back to it; to get in touch again with the past and listen to its stories and turn them into my own.
Dealing with the past can be a sad process. I am into the second side of the first tape I made with my Aunt and I have already typed ten solid pages of text. It seems a lot, but actually it is about a lot of different people, and in some cases it is all, outside of some black and white photos, and the odd object, that remains of them. From a whole life there are usually two or three stories that have been remembered, and these stories are often about some perceived slight, or curious incident. It’s amazing how enduring bitterness or resentment can be.
And love of course.
Today, sitting down for lunch I looked at the flowers in a jug on the table and listened to the music playing on the stereo and thought: there is nothing you can do about time, nothing about this moment will last. Of course we don’t want to trapped in an eternal moment, but I, like most people, do pine for the chance to return to certain moments in the past. Just as much as I want to see Eleanor grow up I will always want to go back to the day when I met her for the first time, or the day we brought her home, or just this morning when she was happy to have a bath with her dad and felt no shame or embarrassment as she will soon I suppose. Well, I hope she’ll always remember to give her old man a hug when he needs it.
The only way we have back to the past is stories, memories and dreams and dreams are the most powerful. I can’t help but think that there is a spiritual element to this, if spiritual means believing in something bigger than yourself and not simply believing in a divine being. What seems bigger than myself is my family, and the connection that family offers me to the past, and to people in general. I once felt more alone in the world than I do now, but I now feel a little more linked to this curious line of people who came before me. When I hear the stories about all the great aunts and uncles and grandparents that I never even knew I can’t help but recognise aspects of them in myself, and many of these aspects are not flattering. Of course there is not an easily explainable direct link between how those people of the past behaved and my own quirks, but it offers something to belong to.
All of this reminded me of two things. Watching Amistad with my Year 10 class there is a scene where the leader of the incarcerated Africans explains that when he goes to the court he will draw strength from the belief that all of his ancestors are standing up with him. In my Year 13 class we are reading the Aeneid. Throughout this epic the mortal or semi-mortal characters interact with the divine through dreams and visions. In Book 6 Aeneas visits the underworld and meets Anchises, his dead father. Anchises shows Aeneas all of the generations of great Romans to be who are waiting to be reborn. It is a tremendous scene: Aeneas who knows he does not have many years left to him is able to see, through his dead father, the great line of heroes who will build an empire that will cover the known world.
The last time I saw Gran she was in the home and it was one of the saddest meetings of my life. Actually too much for me to write about even now. She remembered a time when we had played in the park together when I was a boy. I felt like crying. When she hugged me before I left her grip around me was fierce and strong. I suppose that she will always be with me in my dreams, and that I will tell Eleanor about her so that she lives a little into the future. My mother who saw her just before she died said she was lying in her bed, looking small, huddled into herself like a baby, and it seemed as if she were returning to her ancestors. That was a comfort. To go back to where we started, back to the love of your parents, and to be remembered by those you passed your love on to.