As part of the NaNoWriMo thing, my goal is to write 50,000 words. So far I have a grand total of 1300. Yes, as in less than 3 percent of my goal at more than 30% of the way through the timeline. But also, as in more than 0 percent with more than 50% of the timeline to go... thankyouveryMUCH!
Anyway, I thought it would be cool to share little excerpts from time to time of what I'm writing, so here goes... a piece from a section I'm writing On Dreams (inspired by the strange and vivid dreams I've been having and the dream-centered conversations I keep finding myself drawn into):
Dreams from my Mothers.
My mother's mother, Gram, always said she never had any dreams. She always told me that all of her life she could never remember having one single dream. And she wished she could.
Then, one day, when I was in my early twenties and she in her early eighties, I called her to say hi and she told me that it finally happened. She had dreamt something! She spoke with such excitement in her voice, like a schoolgirl who finally got her period or had a first kiss. There was a beautiful innocence that came forth in the way she spoke, and even though I was 3,000 miles away I could see the light in her tea-colored eyes, her apple cheekbones rising high and beautiful above her smile. I could hear, alongside her melodic, slightly-Southern accented voice, the smile on her brown face.
I can't remember the details of her dream, although she did tell me. And now that she has left this world I can't ask her to recall the dream for me. But that's less important than the joy of hearing her tell it, connecting with her on such a simple, but significant level. I'll never forget how it felt to be able to share that with Gram.
My mother, she dreamed all the time. And often she would dream out loud. She told me about the beautiful house she wanted, the places she wanted to go, the things she wanted to do, her dreams for me, her dreams for my brother and his family. She told me about dreams she had as a girl, some of which she had to put on hold in order to embrace adult responsibilities. She spoke without much bitterness about dreams she'd had snatched away from her by inequities like sexism and racism--dreams deferred by life's reality.
One dream my mom always had was to go to Paris. She had wanted to go since she was a teenager. After battling cancer for seven years, obtaining her master's degree and teaching certificate, raising two children and practically raising many others, my mom finally decided that Paris could no longer wait.
It was the year 2000. I was an adult: I was 18. So in my view we were going to be two women out in the world, exploring Paris, la ville d'amour. She booked a ticket for herself and one for me. The flight was a mother-daughter slumber party in the air. We watched a ballet movie (which was perfect because she had been a dancer in her twenties), chatted, read magazines, giggled, and planned out the fabulous time we would have together.
We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport and people were smoking inside the building, talking loudly on cell phones, rushing around. We just looked around and clung to each other so as not to get separated. Looking back now, and after having lived in New York City, this makes me smile.
Another thing I remember was that as soon as we stepped off the plane we noticed that there were black people there from all over the world, in all types of traditional and Western dress. We marveled at this. Even though we both knew that Paris was a major metropolitain city where the African diaspora was represented in full effect, it was one thing to know it and another thing altogether to see it.
We got in a taxi and noted the fact that it, and many of the other taxis on the road, was a Benz (owning a Benz was another one of my mom's dreams, but she always complained that my dad was too cheap). We arrived at our hotel and discovered that the star system wasn't quite the same in Europe. The hotel was crappy. But it would do, because we weren't planning on sticking around our room for long. The bathtub was great, and the restaurant across the street was delicious in an unassuming, Parisian street cafe type of way, so we were happy.
The trip lived up to our expectations. It was truly one of the best memories of my life. My mom was a better storyteller than I am, so I wish she were here to tell it from her perspective. I'm sure she'd tell how she felt to see the German men hitting on her little girl. She was horrified and I found it absolutely hilarious, and of course, I didn't mind the positive feedback!
She would probably tell about our snooty waiter, who wouldn't give us what we wanted and then snatched the money out of my mom's hand, compelling me to start screaming at the top of my lungs, "Ne touche pas ma mere!" I was livid and seriously ready to go to blows with the man. But later on that night we cracked up about the whole thing.
She would also probably tell about our experience at a random nightclub, where we danced to Eminem with two men, I think they were Senegalese, and their ages were probably smack square in the middle of ours. We couldn't stop laughing at the fact that were were dancing together, to Eminem, at a nightclub, in Paris, with men who were way too young for her and way too old for me. I can still see her face and the disco lights and our purple and pink clothing. I'm smiling right now at the thought of it.
There is one moment I regret from the trip. We were walking down a crowded street. I can't recall what famous landmark we were visiting. Was it Champs-Elysees? I don't remember. But my mom reached out to grab my arm and I snatched it away from her with unnecessary force. I don't know if I felt like she was crowding me, babying me, or what. When I saw her reaction, the pure hurt on her face... if I could take that moment away I would do so in a heartbeat.
Speaking of snatching, I feel like my mom was snatched away from me. Like we were deprived of the time to dream out loud together, to live more dreams together, to make mistakes and hurt each others' feelings and then mvoe on together. When she died, I was 21. I had canceled my Paris Study Abroad plans against her wishes, because something inside me told me I needed to be close to home. Something inside me knew the cancer had returned, even though she wanted to keep this fact a secret from me. I feel like mom had more dreams to make; decades of new firsts to experience and share.
I feel cheated, but then I remember that no one is guaranteed time. I don't know when my last chance will be to strike pen against paper and write out my own dreams, revisit fond memories or imagine new realities for myself. So I really can't say that I was cheated, that I was entitled to any more time with her, that I'm entitled to tomorrow for that matter.
But my mom, sometimes I see her in my dreams. Sometimes the dreams are amazing, like when I'm soaring over ice-blue water and she's with me, although I can't see her, right by my side. And we're laughing in pure bliss. Sometimes the dreams are traumatic, like when I am transported back to the day of her death.
Dreams are a wonderful reminder that we are alive. You have one, and then you are kicked back into consciousness, and then you are able to reflect on what just happened and figure out if it applies to your reality. My mom did this both awake and asleep. That's just one lesson I've learned from her.