I. All I have to do is dream
In the past couple of weeks, I've been having dreams about the first home I remember: Three Sanford Road. The dreams are all set in the present day: my mother--who (in the dreams) inexplicably still owns this house that we, in fact, sold in 1974--is remodeling it to try to make it attractive to sell. But in dreamland, this effort is always cast as a ridiculous, hopeless project.
The house was a post-WWII modest, 3-bedroom ranch with a screened porch and cement patio in the back. In one of the dreams, my mother is redecorating the small, square bedrooms, in hopes that improbable wallpaper choices or misguidedly inventive color schemes will perk them up. The buff-pink and black-tiled bathroom is Unhip Retro. In the most recent dream, she is sprucing up the back hall and garage; I am surprised that I don't 'remember' that a warren-like series of high-ceilinged rooms leads up to the garage in the back, with a telescopic effect. The garage itself--during our actual time living there, always too junk-ridden to hope to contain even our 1965 VW Beetle--I note, in the dream, has a door too narrow to accommodate any automobile anyway, irrespective of my mother's hopeful efforts with semi-gloss white paint. Even more ominous, next door and in back of the corner lot that the house occupies appears to be some sort of cacaphonous and menacing heavy-construction project or Superfund site ... in another dream, the neighborhood surrounding the house has been transformed into a labyrinthine village of brick townhouses in which I get hopelessly lost trying to find my way to my old school: a ten-classroom, golden brick building, 'in real life' re-opened as the town's Senior Citizen's Center sometime around 1980.
In short: these are dreams of the disturbing variety, replete with claustrophobia and nailbitten angst.
My memories of that house, where I lived from age three to eight, are loaded with ambivalence, though from the dreams you'd think my five years there were an unending series of traumas. The best memories revolve around playtime with my older sister and two or three neighborhood friends. I remember my sister making her 'special' toast for me on Saturday mornings, before our parents were awake--her first recipe:
Toast bread very light. Apply about one tablespoon butter per slice. Serve warm.
Another especially treasured memory of this neighborhood was a picnic expedition organized by my best friend Tania and me, after I had discovered an area between two fences--which, I explained to Tania, therefore 'belonged to nobody' and was fair game as a picnic ground. We brought with us two diminutive bottles of Coca-Cola® and some potato chips, and found that the owner of one of the fenced homes had an alternative interpretation of property law. But it was fun anyway.
It was also the site of my mother's most severe depression, around the time of her father's decline and death and her own late-pregnancy miscarriage that (for reasons I still don't understand) required her to carry the baby for many weeks after its death. And then, during the same period, it's also the house where my mother got pregnant again, and my younger sister was born; so I remember the third bedroom being transformed from our playroom to The Baby's Room: the play kitchen replaced by a crib; the spare bed (where I sometimes slept in protest after a fight with my older sister, only to retreat to our shared room in the dark night when all the knots in the painted wood panelling came alive as aggressive spiders) replaced by the changing table.
It's not surprising that my dreams remember this house as an unsatisfactory place. I could easily have added to the negative aura of these dreams a number of additional unattractive details: the numerous earwigs that ran riot on the painted concrete floor of the screened porch; the chilly red-and-black linoleum of the laundry room/half bathroom in the back hall, to be regarded as an emergency urination option only in winter; our family's woefully inadequate cleanup of the fecal deposits of Pokey, our beagle, on the side of the house where her lead was hooked up, and all the plump, well-fed iridescent flies that relied upon her production ...
I have a few ideas about why I'm having these particular dreams right about now--but nothing I'd care to elaborate upon.
II. Heigh ho, heigh ho--no more to work I go ...
This is my first day (that counts) of not-working. It's two weeks until summer classes start; I timed my exit from work to give me this breathing space.
The last day--blessedly overburdened with hurried efforts to leave the project, and my workstation, in a reasonably orderly condition--would have felt even weirder if I had prepared for it better and had time to reflect on how strange it was to leave, so nonchalantly, merely because I chose to for personal reasons and not for another job. I suppose I was successful in obscuring the details of exactly when I was leaving--I had wanted my departure to remain 'under the radar,' had delayed any announcement at all; at my request, my supervisor had sandwiched the email announcement of my resignation between two other minor announcements sent to a restricted group of people, and the department head had made another vague reference to my departure at a larger meeting. I didn't pack my workstation until less than an hour before leaving, so it's probable that I got out the door without many of my coworkers realizing that it was my last day, especially because I'd chosen a Thursday, rather than a Friday. And that is all for the best, because I find such transitions to be incredibly awkward and unpleasant, and there were more than a couple of people in the department that I would be hard-pressed to pretend to regret.
So: now comes the fun part. Right? I've been referring to this two-week period as a 'vacation' I had gifted to myself, but I'm at least two minds about that (usually something like seven minds--five on weekends), alternating between wanting to do all kinds of 100% pleasurable pursuits that were entirely out of the range of possibility in my life of highly-scheduled time: think 'go to the city for no reason at all, alone,'; and on the other hand also wanting to accomplish a variety of backlisted household and family tasks (yawn), in a leisurely way, and not on weekends. If I can keep myself from spending more than 10% of the time on my ass surfing the web, I'll consider my use of the period an unalloyed victory.