I dreamed a dream of time gone by…
Actually, it was a recurring nightmare that became a night terror.
Forty plus years ago, I was a recently divorced, and displaced, mother of three children, who were roughly 7, 5, and 3 at the time. I had left my alcoholic husband in Ohio and moved myself and children back to my home town in Colorado to be near family. I took jobs where I could get them. I received food stamps and financial assistance for a portion of daycare costs for my two younger children. My stress, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression were redlining. I was headed ninety miles an hour down a dead end street called “Hopelessness”.
The Nightmare gets nasty.
In the months just prior to leaving Ohio, I’d started having a recurring, disturbing dream that involved feelings of unidentifiable dread, but I would wake up, shake off the feelings, and go back to sleep. Once I was back in Colorado, I was distracted with settling into a new life with my kids, and the dream was just a faded memory. But, as it became increasingly more challenging for me to provide for my children much over poverty level, my emotional health deteriorated, and the dream returned. First, it was the familiar feelings of dread unrelated to anything identifiable. Then, insidiously, the dream became a recurring nightmare.
I was always alone in my living room at night and always sitting in the same chair by the same table with the same telephone. My children were sleeping in a different room. An unidentifiable person, male and not a stranger, was inside the house. I was helpless to save myself from whatever he intended to do to me or my children. I never saw his face. I sat frozen in my chair, unable to scream, unable to move. I watched in growing fear as he came closer and closer all the while completely cognizant that I could save myself by lifting the receiver on the phone. That’s all I had to do. Lift the damn receiver. To this day, I remember what that phone looked like.
At this point in the recurring nightmare ordeal, I could still wake up on my own in the nick of time before the intruder attacked me.
Throw in a tendency for insomnia and the recurring nightmare ramped up its nocturnal visits in direct response to my psychological and physiological deterioration. My stress of struggling to make ends meet and worrying about my children’s well-being and not getting enough sleep opened the door for the night terror to make itself at home in my psyche.
The night terror was the same nightmare scenario, except I couldn’t wake up before the man attacked, although I never remembered what he did to me. All the while, the nearness of that damn phone taunted me. All I had to do was grab the receiver, and I couldn’t do it to save myself.
When the night terrors happened, I talked in my sleep or yelled. I thrashed and sometimes got out of bed, but I didn’t sleepwalk. I only know this because it was my my oldest son who usually woke me to tell me I was having a bad dream, then he’d go back to his bed like it was all part of his job as a 7-year-old. 🙁
Then I went to college.
I took out a student loan, received a few grants, and drove a school bus part time, which drastically improved the quality of our lives for the four years I was in college. Life was looking rosy. The prospects of me securing a teaching job after graduation were excellent.
Call it what you will—Fate, Destiny, Coincidence—but one of those life mysteries came out of nowhere.
During a class in my last quarter of college, a professor asked me to go to her office and get a folder of papers she’d forgotten to bring to class. In her office, sitting right there amongst the many antique-y/retro items she collected, was that damn black telephone.
I looked at that phone a long time before I picked up the receiver. I probably stood there staring at that phone for a good minute. I thought about that telephone and its role in my dream/nightmare, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had the nightmare…maybe about the time I’d started college.
It took me a while to work through what the encounter with that telephone meant. I finally decided the telephone had shown up at the end of my four years at college, when I was able to pick up the receiver and save myself, metaphorically speaking, because I was no longer a victim in my mind of my circumstances and life choices. Earning my teaching degree had given me the control over my life that I had lacked (real or imagined), and I was now well-armed (self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-confident) to keep ‘the bad guys’ away on my own (without needing to “call” for help).
Neither the nightmare or the night terror have ever returned.
Until next time,
writing through history one romance upon a time
*Telephone – © Can Stock Photo / stable
*Morgan Community College By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18670665
*University of Northern Colorado – Wikipedia ‘Fair Use’