Nothing like a good old anxiety dream to push me out of bed! This morning, I was having some REM drama where my mother had her dance company, and she expected me to perform several pieces. She showed me the choreography at the last minute, about an hour before the show. The show started, and I couldn’t find my costumes, I didn’t know what order my pieces were on the program, and my mother was too distracted stage managing to help me or answer any of my questions. The stage persona she wanted me to convey was borderline burlesque — I was somehow responsible for setting a psychological tone for everything that followed. I worried that I couldn’t remember the steps, and improvising would be a disaster because she’d call me on it: “What were you doing? That’s not what we rehearsed!” At some point in the hopeless, pointless fugue, I decided that I’d better wake up because that way I wouldn’t have to perform. “I’m not going back to sleep,” I groggily told myself, “so I won’t have to go on stage.” Instead, I got out of bed and ran four miles like I’d promised myself the night before.
During my run, I remembered how often my mother’s dancing entered the dreams of other family members. My dad dreamed once that he and my mother were on a vacation in some place like Haiti, and they were watching a secret voodoo musical ritual. At some point, my mom started clapping and dancing enthusiastically, and Dad shushed her, “Shhh, stop it, shut up! You’re going to get us killed!” At that point, I’m sure he woke up, frustrated and fearful.
In our waking lives, Mom was prone to working out dance steps in the aisle of A & P, the bank, waiting for a table in a restaurant. By the time I was 11, I was examining the cereal or the daily specials and pretending not to know her.
She’s been gone 13 years now, and I miss the shuffle step of her Tretorns on concrete, the count of
“5, 6, 7, 8” under her breath.