An extraordinary dream came to me about a week ago. It was so bright and clear that it woke me completely, though it was three or four in the morning. Knowing that it would take a good while to fall asleep once the solid world had returned so fully, I did what I’ve been doing when I’m awake at night lately: I try to use my time well. Usually I repeat mantras or do breathing exercises. This dream, however, demanded my full attention. I went over and over it in my mind, sinking into its details.
In the morning, when the dream was fresh on my mind, I shared it with Tom, and I wrote it down in a note to a friend.
This is how I remember it now.
I am walking across a parking lot with my hand in my mother’s; we are going shopping in a department store. The store is a large windowless concrete building with two parts joined at the center but skewed, the lower half on the left and the higher one on the right.We enter by a door at the middle.
Still holding hands, my mother and I take the escalator downstairs to find some pajamas for me. The pajamas are easy to find, but I have grown, and need to try them on.
“Where is the changing room?” I ask someone. I am an adult now and my mother is gone.
There is no changing room on this floor, I’m told. I should look upstairs.
I climb the stairs to the upper level, but there’s no changing room there either. Someone tells me there’s an in-between floor that I missed. The changing room is there.
Halfway down the stairs I find an unfinished concrete room without windows, empty except for a guard in a brown uniform sitting at a wooden desk. I go to him and ask about the changing room.
“It’s there,” he points behind me. I turn to see a doorway opening onto a beautiful meadow, bright blue sky, clear sunshine. On the other side of the meadow is a long, single-story, concrete building.
Once through the doorway, I find myself on walkway that runs along the side of the building. It is bounded by a wall, perhaps two feet high. After a moment’s hesitation, I climb onto the wall, pajamas tucked under my arm crackling in their cellophane wrapping, and jump down four or so feet onto the soft grass. Thrilled to be in the meadow, I run joyfully across it, a child again.
When I reach the second building and go in, I see it is a nursing home. I walk down the hall to my left until I find an open door.
In the room, a young black woman is tending a very old woman sitting in a chair.
“Where is the changing room?” I ask. The young woman asks me to wait and leaves the room.
I sit with the ancient woman. She doesn’t speak. We communicate through the eyes.
When the young woman reappears, she is carrying a white blanket. You can put this over your head and change under it, she explains. I go into the corridor and do as she suggests.
Under the blanket, I open the package and discover that the pajamas as perfect. A lovely shade of pink, the top is floor-length, soft and delicate, full of grace. The front is exquisitely embroidered, and the pants are billowy silk, pulled tight at the ankle.
I am in awe, and beginning to come out from under the blanket when it is pulled off from above. As I step out to spin around, to feel the wonderful garment swirl around me, I see that it is the guard from the middle floor taking off the blanket. On his uniform I can read the words Child Protective Services.
I wake up, stunned.
I’m not afraid anymore. I am protected.
I found the changing room.