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  • Writer's picturergummere

Life Is But a Dream

The writing life is such that one can go through a long, dry spell with no publication, and then have a couple of things to share in rapid succession.

I'd be pleased if you'd read (or listen to!) my flash essay,"Rupture," in the June issue of The Razor, the literary magazine of the Gotham Writers Workshop. As a friend so aptly said, "You write about your mother a lot." She's not wrong. I expect to be at it for a while. We were complicated together.

Recently, my nights have been filled with vivid dreams, most of which I can't recall, just the sense in the morning that I've had important conversations during the night. One morning last week I woke feeling as if I'd spoken with my departed mother, as if, in the most casual, off-handed way she'd shown up and come alongside me, and we picked up the thread of whatever we were talking about when we left off a while ago. About what, I don't know.

In the dream I think we were standing at the edge of a vegetable garden. It wasn't hers, even though when she was alive she'd planted massive gardens full of every vegetable you can imagine — tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, snap beans and pole beans, zucchini and yellow and pattypan squash, eggplant, carrots, broccoli — and herbs. Feathery dill she'd use for pickles, and parsley and oregano and mint, lots of mint. The garden I dreamt may have been one I was responsible for. I was glad for and accepting of her advice in the dream, which was not always the case when she was alive.

Another morning I woke with my dad's voice in my ear. How I miss him. How I miss his wise counsel and the loving way he spoke my name. For a while yesterday, just to comfort myself, I wore one of his driving caps — he was a nut for old English cars and over the years had various models of MGs and Jags and Bentleys and even a few Rolls Royces. It was the one luxury he allowed himself. After my dad died, I asked my mom if I could have one of his caps, dusty gray and tan.

The lining was darkly yellowed with traces of his perspiration. The hat smelled like him, of warm toast and faint traces of soap. I'd bury my nose in it, trying to remember.

Telling myself. Here was my father. My father was here. He existed. Once upon a time, I had a dad.

After a time, I had to wash the cap. Really, even in my deep grief, I knew it was gross. So I washed it.

Other than their ashes, no trace of my parents remains. Except in my dreams on the rare occasions they show up.

And on the page, of course. Stories about my mother, like "Rupture," and the tale of my father's passing, like "The Departure." I resurrect them as I can. Reimagine their presence, hoping they don't mind that I disturb their slumber in order to bring them into focus again, reexamine our time together through the lens of my own lengthening journey.

Don my dad's cap, buckle up, hands on the steering wheel. Ready, set. Write.

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