“What was it about?” I fumbled for my glasses and stuck my hand into a glass of water which, at 3 am, sent shivers up my own spine.
“Ghosts came out of the cracks in the closet.”
“You know there are no such things as ghosts,” I said, trying to coax a warm and safe tone from my dusty throat. “I think you and your friends have been talking too much about those things.” Poppy’s class has been studying ancient Egypt and the abbreviated archaeologists have focused mostly on mummification and how human organs were removed and then stored in primitive Tupperware.
“I’ll grab my dream catcher, Dad. That always helps.” Poppy reached for the willow hoop adorned with feathers, horsehair and beads. Even though I know the object tethered to her bedpost comforts my daughter, I feel a bit conflicted about the appropriation of another culture as a sleeping aid. Then again, if I restricted Poppy to embracing my roots, she’d have a flask of gin and a pack of Kents hanging from her bunk bed instead.
The next morning I asked Poppy to tell her mother about the nightmare. Discussing it the day after seems to keep the rats, kidnappers, killer birds and drunken clowns at bay for about a week. London turned his attention from the cartoons on television and listened intently to his sister’s stories of apparitions squeezing through our distinct lack of weatherproofing.
“I had a bad dream, too,” London exclaimed, wanting to be included in our will-o’-the-wisp group therapy session.
“What was it about?”
“You know that frog?” “That frog” was London’s foundation nightmare that occurred several months ago. Even though London cannot remember the names of the kids in his playgroup, “that frog” has been a major figure in his life. Unlike Poppy’s dream, London’s was void of anything even remotely resembling a plot. According to the boy, all the amphibian did was give him repeated dirty looks. If a mean glare were enough to give one bad dreams, my students would have driven me to a sleep disorder clinic years ago. “What should we do about your bad dream, Londy?” I have to admit that since I knew he was just parroting his sister my question wasn’t intended to quell London’s inner demons. I selfishly wanted to watch as his wacky mind churned out some odd response like one of Willy Wonka’s cuckoo candy machines.
“Let me think,” London said, poking his cranium with a bent index finger. “I think we need a new house,” he said, looking around the living room.
“Let me see.” He studied the myriad toys just within reach—fully loaded train table, rotating fire station, foam rubber blocks—and his mind quickly did a 180. “I kinda like this house, Dada.”
“I figured you would,” I said, winking at Lala who was enjoying the exchange immensely.
“I know,” London exclaimed, raising his index finger in the air. “I think I need a new head.” He threw us a big smile, pleased with his Frankenstein-like epiphany.
“Where would we get one of those?”
“From another body, silly. Sheesh.”
All three of us—Poppy, Lala, and me—were trying to imagine that scenario: someone else’s noggin on London’s short athletic body. I saw Poppy’s face twist into deep thought; she was using her newfound knowledge of ancient embalming and mummification to make the switch.
“I bet I can guess what your next nightmare will be about,” I said to her but she wasn’t listening, the sibling skull swap still occupying her mind. London was close by, patting the edges of his head, trying to figure out its circumference.
“After all this nonsense,” I told Poppy, “we will all need a dream catcher the size of a basketball hoop.”
Reproduced with permission granted by Santa Fe Reporter.