Posted by Pattie on 9/28/2007 09:31:00 AM

Weathering Storms

I have a recurring dream. It involves the house my grandparents lived in when I was a kid. I spent my first 8 years of life hanging out at that house. It was a two-story with a dark, dank basement. My grandparents rented the bottom part of the house from the time the moved to Indiana (my mom was in high school) until my grandfather passed away (the year I started high school). I think they rented it for nearly 20 years. The upstairs was rented to someone else. Until the mid-60s, the only bathroom was upstairs. We used an outhouse.

The basement was accessed in two different ways -- from the outside via a door big enough for a coal truck to back up and deliver coal and from the kitchen via stairs to where my grandmother did laundry using an old fashion washing machine, complete with a tub for washing, a tub for rinsing an a contraption that you rolled the clothes through one piece at a time to squeeze the water out of them in order to hang them on a line to dry. There were several other rooms in the basement besides the coal room and the laundry room. My grandmother canned fruits, vegetables, pickled items and preserves and they were kept in those rooms because even in the summer, the rooms were cool. The rest of the basement is a blur.

What I remember most about the basement was the smell. It was always musty and smelled like peet after a rain.

This house wasn't really that big. The downstairs had a kitchen, dining room, living room, and two bedrooms. One of the bedrooms was really just part of the living room walled off with a divider. The front bedroom was a wonderful, sunny room where you go to sleep listening to the cars pass on the highway. The house was set between a busy highway (one of the major routes into Indianapolis) and a railroad track. I learned early how to sleep to the rhythms of both.

There was an attic off the upstairs bathroom. We accessed the bathroom a few times a week for bathing. One time I was taking a bath and decided to open the door to the attic. I think I was 4 or 5 years old. A mouse ran out. That was the last time I looked there.

I didn't actually ever "live" in this house in the strictest sense of the word. But my parents worked the nightshift when I was young, so I was a frequent overnight visitor.

I'm telling you all this because it is important to contrast it to the recurring dream.

In my dream, the house is much bigger and has all sorts of secret passages. The plot to these dreams are always different, but the house remains a maze of secrets.

I have suspected for some time that part of what my brain is trying to tell me regarding my childhood is that there were some dark things buried in the past. I've dug up some of those things and learned to live with them. However, the dreams remain. In 2000, I even visited the site where the house stood for more than 100 years and know that a nursery lives there now, though the detached garage is still up and has been renovated into an office. (BTW, I asked when I was there is the plants grew better around the site of the old outhouse and was greeted with amazement that I knew the spot of their best soil. I told them why and added "I helped.")

But knowing that the house is gone and working through the darker secrets of what was going on there hasn't kept me from dreaming about that house about once or twice a year.

I had one of those dreams last night.

I dreamt that I was visiting with Carl and several friends at the house, which seemed like it was in a city rather than a small town. I was on the second floor and looked out to see a tornado passing very close to the house. I called for the others to run with me to the basement. In my dreams, the house is always much larger than it was in real life. It takes a while for us to get down to the basement. The basement is filled with furniture and is not dark like reality. But the smell is always there. So is the cold feeling.

I get lost there and separated from the others. The wind is blowing outside, but the storm is starting to subside. I am feeling scared and exhilerated. I have always liked storms. Indiana has a lot of tornadoes and I waited out more than a few of them in the basement of that house. But this time, I could see some of the street and part of the yard.

Then a funny thing happens. I am sitting with Carl and we are watching the dream and I start telling him about the recurring dream and noting all the differences. It is like I am offering a commentary on the dream, though I can't really remember upon wakening what I said. All I know is I woke up feeling a little disoriented but reassured that I know how to weather storms.

Perhaps, the message of the dream was simply that. Diabetes is just another storm to weather and I'm pretty skillful about that now.