As a child, my mother chastised me often, telling me that I was just like my father, wings on my feet, stars in my eyes and dreams in my heart. “Star-gazers go nowhere,” she’d tell me. “Dreams are for sleeping. Hard work is the answer to everything.”
During other moments, when her softer side snuck out, she mesmerized me with stories of my Scottish great grand-father, a safe cracker by trade, roaming the country by stagecoach in the late 1800’s. He was born with “a special ear”, she said. He could open any safe by just listing to the lock click. Errant bankers called for his help from all over the country to open their accidentally locked safes. Ultimately, she would get to her favorite part of his story about him bringing home to New Jersey a Navajo Indian squaw, right off the reservation in Arizona, to take as his wife.
My mother’s stories took us to the Netherwoods, a tiny little forest in the” Queen City of Plainfield” New Jersey to my Irish great-grandmothers house, which sat right in the middle of the woods.. It was here that my mother heard the disgruntled old woman tell tales every morning of the mischievous, little green leprechauns that she had to chase back behind the ice-box with her broom before she could make breakfast. My mother laughed as she recalled her grand-mother doing an Irish jig around the kitchen as she cooked the food, happy with herself that she had conquered the “devilish little creatures” one more time.
She led us through the kitchens of “old country” Italy, where another round of relatives hailed from, describing how they taught her to “make the spaghetti you are going to eat tonight!”
When she was too busy “working hard” to tell us stories of our ancestors and their customs, our father would step in to fill the gap. He took us to places like the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific and Hawaii, which he hailed as the most beautiful place in the world. He took us to Helena, Montana, where horses roamed free and men wore cowboy hats. He told me of giant ships taking him and his Army buddies to foreign ports and the beautiful women he met. He taught me to play craps with dice against the kitchen sink when my mother wasn’t looking. The wings on my feet sprouted at a very young age.
My childhood and teenage years were peppered with people from all parts of the world, but the one with the most influence was a girl named Andre, from French Morocco. She was beautiful, she spoke four languages, French being number one and English her second and she introduced me to her family. I, at ten years old, spent every minute I could at her house, annoying I am sure, asking her parent’s questions about their life, their languages, why their cat spoke French and a million other curiosities I discovered about them. They only stayed in America a year, but my wings grew six inches.
As far as I can tell, there have been three phases to my life, my childhood, my adulthood, and finally, the third phase, my second childhood. This blog is about how I, and my wonderful husband, have figured out how to get the dreams back out of the hollows of our minds and make them come alive again.