I don’t really believe in dream interpretation, but I remember one recurring dream I had when I was in high school that has always intrigued me. During my senior year, almost every night I would dream of flying. I’d hold my arms straight out, like a fixed wing airplane, run to the end of the yard and off I’d go into the wild blue yonder. I can remember to this day the exhilaration I felt when my feet would leave the ground and I’d climb into the sky, circle over the rooftops, ascend still higher to glide over the whole town, then soar high, high above the clouds, and eventually completely out of sight of civilization. I remember feeling so free, so independent, and so excited at the possibilities of what might lie ahead. Often, my flights occurred at night, and once aloft I remember looking down on the thousands of twinkling town lights as I circled high overhead. The odd thing about these nighttime excursions was that as I passed over my own neighborhood, my friends’ houses would glow with a warm yellow light but for some reason my own house was always dark – it stood out from the others like a burned out bulb on a blinking roadside sign.
Looking back on it now it’s easy for me to read meaning into my adolescent dreams. You see, my childhood wasn’t a very happy one. By the time I was ten, my family already had moved across the country several times because of my father’s chronic alcoholism, and my parents had divorced. Several years later my father died, and my older brother had married and left home, so it was just my mother and me left living together in a tiny house in Florida.
My teenage years were tough for both my mother and me. I went to school, which I didn’t like very much, and worked at a sporting goods store in the afternoons to help out financially at home. My mother worked two jobs to try to make ends meet, so I didn’t see that much of her, and when I did she was tired most of the time. I remember feeling sorry for her, but also angry that she wasn’t around more, and didn’t seem to have a lot of energy left for me when she was. I envied my friends, who seemed to have more normal lives, with fathers who worked, mothers at home, and brothers and sisters around. I guess I felt a little gypped out of the childhood and family life that I always wanted.
Just after my 17th birthday, in the middle of my senior year in high school, my mother died unexpectedly. My grief over her death was exceeded only by the utter and complete sense of abandonment that I felt. I was alone, and whatever was to come next was up to me. It was a scary feeling, but at the same time somewhat liberating, and I soon took advantage of my new, forced independence. Just after high school I left Florida and never really looked back. For many years I wandered the world trying on different places and different “faces”, but none of them really felt right until I married and had my own family. Since then, I’ve thrown myself into my roles as husband, provider and father with great gusto – the quintessential “family man” – and have loved just about every moment. I think in many ways the family and home that I’ve helped create has been my proxy for the one I never really had, but always wanted. Maybe you can’t really go home again, as Thomas Wolfe writes, but creating your own home and viewing it through your child’s eyes is a very close second. It’s been enormously fulfilling to me, and I think my wife and daughter treasure it too. For this cherished experience I thank God.
I haven’t had my flying dream in many, many years, but when I do I know that I won’t be flying alone, and that the view from aloft will be one where all houses below glow with the same warm, happy light of home.