Tag Archives: dreams

Circling-In On 60

When your birthday is in mid-November and you live in the northeast, it might very well snow that day. And so it did the year I got my first new bicycle. A metallic blue Schwinn Stingray with chrome monkey handlebars, streamers, and a sparkle-flecked banana seat. Getting that bike was a dream come true. The weather did not deter me from giving my new wheels a test drive. I ran that bike into the snow-covered cul-de-sac and rode around in circles, leaving a tangle of tread marks in the snow. On a future November birthday, I would make a similar pattern with much larger treads, practicing my driving skills in a snow-covered parking lot.

When my boys were young, one of their favorite songs was Joni Mitchell’s The Circle Game. The happily-ever-after lyrics lulled to sleep: A boy catching a dragonfly in a jar, painted ponies, ice skating, cartwheels, car wheels, fears and dreams. For me, it was Brothers Grimm, camouflaged by rhyme and a lilting voice: Ten, 16, 20. The years spin by. We’re captives on a carousel. You can’t drag your feet; you’ll get burned. You remembered what happened when you tried to stop the playground merry-go-round before your friends flew off. Better to hang on for dear life and push through your fear, repeating, “It’s only a ride. It’s only a ride.”

If Joni had written more than four verses, I’m sure the calliope would have played through the decades until the boy turned 90, taking his final nap in the lion chariot. Round and round, ups and downs. Odds are that the years won’t all be clear, frozen streams and carefree, cartwheel days, but each birthday we celebrate is another chance to inhale a wish and blow our smoke signals to heaven.

The girl who dreamed tomorrow now is 60. Pedaling through the years like a possessed child on a metallic blue bike, she’s on the ride of a lifetime.  


Angels Among Us


I don’t know much about her – how she lived or how she died. But I do know she was loved by the young boy who would become my grandfather, my PaPou.  His love kept her close to his heart always, and his story kept her memory alive for generations. The story is now 100 years old.

My PaPou was 10 years old when his mother died. He said an angel was the first to tell him. “I already know,” my grandfather had said to his Uncle George, the human bearer of the sad news. “The angel told me.” No one believed him, but he believed what he saw. He never doubted it.

My grandfather’s eyes filled with tears every time he recounted the story. He remembered that the angel was so beautiful it took his breath away. Yes, it had wings. No, he wasn’t afraid.

The only record I can find of my great grandmother Elena Sitnas is when she came to the U.S. from Greece in 1907, presumably to marry my great grandfather Angelo Komnenus, who had arrived three years earlier. Her parents and her brothers followed. They all came through Ellis Island.  Other than oral history, there is scant evidence of her life. The 1920 U.S. Census lists Angelo, four children, Elena’s parents and brothers at the same Manhattan residence. But not Elena. The angel had arrived before the census taker.

I know the family lived in Hell’s Kitchen, a gritty Midtown neighborhood for many immigrant families. I know Elena worked as a seamstress, making shirts. The conditions of shirt-making factories were notoriously bad in the early 1900s. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire – one of the deadliest industrial disasters in U.S. history – claimed the lives of 146 garment workers just four years after my great grandmother immigrated to New York City. Although that was not her fate, I imagine that working and living conditions contributed to Elena’s premature death, but I really don’t know. I have not been able to locate her death certificate. Multiple spellings of our Greek surname complicate the search.

I have two photos of Elena that I keep on our fireplace mantel, bookending an arrangement of candles. One serious, posed beside her husband, her hair pulled up in a chignon. The other, a complete contrast. She is dressed Roma-style, big earrings, her black hair cascading down her shoulders, her chin slightly tilted toward the sky. Her profile looks a lot like my mother, a grand-daughter she never met. She looks happy. My grandfather used to joke that we came from a long line of gypsies. Looking at this photo, I wonder.

Last year, I had a dream that I had to hide a white bird feather for a scavenger hunt. In the dream, I can feel the feather between my index finger and thumb. I’m twirling it. I know I am running out of time to hide it. I hand the feather to my oldest son. Even though I don’t see him do it, I know that he has hidden the feather behind the photo of my great grandparents on the mantel. I can sense it, and I feel good about his choice.

The next day, a friend handed me a white bird feather she found on a walk. I recognized it from my dream, and I knew where it belonged. I put it behind the photo of my maternal great grandparents. It has been there for almost a year.

This week when I dusted the mantel, I noticed the feather was gone.  At least I thought it was gone. Working my way down the mantel, I rediscovered the feather, neatly tucked behind a framing nail in the opposing photo, the carefree portrait of Elena as a young woman.

I believe in angels. Those we can see, and those we cannot. They are here, always here, leaving their imprint, if not their footprints, behind.

When Dreams Speak to You

IMG_0779Yesterday I had a lapse of optimism, a mini-mid-life crisis. I questioned if the goals and dreams I had set for myself were too big. Did I have enough time to accomplish them all? I wondered if I should refocus and start to let go of some of my bolder ideas like building a house in Mexico.
Last night, I had a dream that I was on a bus, heading to some big event in a city. My sister, son Alex, and Alan were with me. We were having a good time. When the bus got stuck in traffic, some people got off and decided to walk. Although we were anxious that we would be late, we decided to stay put. Suddenly the traffic vanished, and the people who got off were trying to make their way through the crowd and moving vehicles. A child was separated from its family and was pulled onto another bus. I yelled for our driver to stop, and tried to get up from my seat but I was stuck. Oddly enough, I didn’t wake up. In the dream, I accepted that there was nothing more I could do. As I relaxed back into the dream, I saw the lost child getting help from a police officer.
We arrived at our destination, but now I wanted to run so we wouldn’t be late. I decided that I would take a shortcut and hop a wrought iron fence. My sister warned me not to do it, but I did, and my pants got stuck on one of the prongs. Fortunately, I was yoga-strong and was able to suspend myself on one arm in a side plank until my sister could unsnag the fabric. The short-cut left a puncture hole in my pants, but not on my skin. As I assessed the damage, Alex and Alan made fun of me: Some short cut. In the end, we all arrived at the event with enough time to find our seats.
I’m usually not good at interpreting dreams, but this message was clear: Stay on the journey. You may hit delays and snags. There are no short cuts. Don’t try to intervene in the choices others make, even if they appear lost. Focus on following your own path. Don’t worry about being behind schedule. You will reach your destination if you stay the course.
This dream had particular significance for me, but I think there’s a universal message here – or a Hallmark card.

To Sleep Perchance to Dream

My kids will tell you not to call me after 9:30 p.m. An early riser, I’m winding down about then and not much in the mood to chat. I need to get to bed early because I have a lot of dreaming to do.
Seldom do I have nightmares. If I have a dream I don’t like, I change it. I’ve been known to wake myself up by laughing out loud. I can smell, touch, and feel in my dreams. I visit places I have never been. I wander through houses and buildings, encountering friends and family as well as people I believe I am meeting for the first time. Sometimes I remember their names and can recount entire conversations. I encounter things that inspire awe and wonder, and I can feel my eyes widen to let in more light. I dream about water. Even when it’s rough and portends damage and destruction, it is rocking fun. I get carried away in the current, and I feel as if I’m bumping through Class 5 rapids. On rare occasions, I dream about loved ones who have died. When I embrace them, they are vapor in my arms. Those dreams always end too soon. It’s an unusual morning that I can’t recall a dream or two or five.
There was a time when I woke up exhausted from dreaming. I was sure that the content of my dreams was a key to a universal mystery or at least insight into a challenge I needed to work out in my life. I confided in a wise friend who suggested that I stop wondering what it all means and simply accept that I am traveling in a different sphere, which is exciting and adventurous, and I am learning even if I’m not consciously getting the message.
Carl Jung might have interpreted my recent dream about losing keys as losing or giving up control. In my dream lexicon, I think it signifies that I am a seeker, looking for answers. Sometimes the keys that unlock the door or start the car are in my pocket or my hand. And sometimes losing the keys helps me remember that finding them is far less important than enjoying the journey.