When I was a child, my mother was the center of my universe. She was the holder of all knowledge, the keeper of all that was important in our lives, the provider of advice, and wisdom and acceptance.
I spent my entire adolescence trying to be as good as my Mom; as worthy a woman, as loving, as accomplished, as confident. I wanted to grow up to be her.
In my late twenties, I finally had a chance to emulate Mom. My first child was born, and I was eager to achieve the same level of incredible Mommy wonderfulness that I felt my Mom had achieved. I cooked nutritious dinners, read bed-time books, rocked and hugged and kept the house clean. I tried my very best to live up to the unspoken expectations of being Zena’s daughter.
I remember a night, when I was about 13. I woke up from a terrible, gut wrenching dream. In that dream, my Mom had died. I had watched as her body was taken out of our house, but it had only been put in the garage, awaiting the weekly trash pick up. In my sorrowful dream, Mom was waiting patiently on a shelf in the garage, unable to leave or to come back upstairs, aware that she had died. But she was awake and alert, giving me advice and orders, even from her perch on the other side. “Put away the syrup.”, she said, “Give the boys the rest of the pancakes, but be sure that you put the syrup away.” In my dream, heartbroken and sobbing, I had cleared the kitchen table, carefully put the remaining maple syrup into the refrigerator, then turned to embrace my mother, who was about to leave us forever. And in that dream she gave me a hug, a bit cursory and cool, then held me by the shoulders to say, “Make sure that you always put away the food after you eat.”
And then she was gone.
So what is the message in this strangely sad dream, recalled after more than 40 years? Is it that we need to always put away food? I don’t think that was the intention of the dream.
Is the message that we should value those we love while we still have them? As valuable a message as this is, I don’t know that this situation would have been the one to bring it to focus.
So what did I learn from this old dream?
I learned that it is in the very mundane and casual details that the essence of every situation can be found. I learned that it is important to put away the syrup, if the syrup has some meaning to the family. I think that the message of the dream is that we must work hard to protect those ideas that serve as the backbone of our lives. We must embrace and accept and hold on to all of those ideas that make our families what they are.
I look at my children, coming and going from our house this summer. And I am reminded that I am both “the center of the universe” and the “holder of all knowledge”.