Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bad Dream

Evie came into our room at 3:23 am, sobbing that she "had a bad dream."

Why is there no better place to chase away the bad dream than in Mom's and Dad's bed? After cradling her in the crook of my arm for a few minutes, I sensed that her breathing had calmed down and that she was heading back to a sleepy place.  I scooped up that not-so-tiny-anymore body and tucked her back in her own bed with a quick kiss.

This morning, she recounted a horrific tale of escaping crocodiles and kind pirates and her screams.  Sounds like she's watched a little too much Peter Pan lately.

I remember very vividly my recurring childhood nightmare.

My dad had told me the story of his grandpa being held up at gunpoint by the notorious Mexican revolutionary general, Pancho Villa--how Grandpa had stood up bravely until the outlaws left. From that time on, Pancho Villa and his armed revolutionaries began to haunt my nights.

The dream was always the same.

I would be in the big white barn with my dad, helping him take care of our horses, Gabe and Lady.  Dad would somehow disappear (as people in dreams are prone to do), and I would wander around the perimeter looking for him.  Instead of finding Dad, I would inevitably run into Pancho and his gang.  He always had a cigarette dangling from his lips, a huge sombrero on his head, and a Mexican blanket draped rakishly over one shoulder.  He would casually line me up against the barn door (as I'd always imagined he had done to my great-grandfather), and after taking a puff from his cigarette, he would ask me for my last wish.

Scary, right? I had seen too many Westerns, hadn't I?

My last wish was always the same, and how my pre-teen brain processed this situation, I'll never know.  For my last wish, I looked that villain straight in the eye, just like my great-grandfather had in my mind, and in an act of bravery and rebellion, I would reach down (without breaking his gaze) and pinch my forearm as hard as I could.

Every time I wished for that pinch.  And every time, I woke myself up.

Without turning on a single light, I would make the long trek from my basement corner room, through the family room with the green shag carpet and mirrored wallpaper, up the stairs, through the kitchen, and then walk around my parents' bed to my mom's side. 

"Mom, I had a bad dream."

"I'm sorry, Jen. It wasn't real. Go back to sleep."

Somehow, that's all it took--those few comforting words from my mother in the middle of the night, and I would dutifully turn around and make the long dark trek back to the cozy spot between my own sheets.

Dreams are weird, aren't they?

I still have nightmares occasionally (my last one was reminiscent of Brad Pitt and his World War Z experiences), but none seem to affect me as much as that nightmare from my childhood.

Do you remember your childhood nightmares?


  1. There is a good reason I always fought my friends who wanted to watch 'A Nightmare on Elm Street.' I did not want Freddy to be a feature in one of my really vivid, usually really weird dreams!

    Sweet Evie! She will just have to find a way to incorporate the pinch!

  2. Well, I've just been reading and reading trying to catch up with you. I don't know how you find the time to write such beauty every day except that you are so talented with your words.
    I've laughed and cried.

  3. Mine was the Incredible Hulk. Mom always let me lay n the floor in the family room in the corner by the laundry room (so I couldn't see the TV)until I fell asleep. Then dad would carry me upstairs. Amazing how comforting our parents were, huh?