Key to the Treasure

I keep dreaming of my childhood home. I won’t bore you with the details; with the recalling of the coat closet next to the front door; the fur that once lived there, but didn’t appear in my dream. In my dream, my mother pulled out a vintage polyester shirt draped over a wire hanger steam-pressed and plastic wrapped years ago, now eager to breathe. She handed it to me, “Do you want this?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer.

= =

My middle son is reading a musky-smelling original hardcover edition of Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parish. It’s not the edition I read when I was nine — mine was paperback. But mine was lost in the Flood.

= =

I know for certain someone somewhere is reading my copy of New York Then and Now on a toilet. It’s a book meant to be read on the toilet.

They call them coffee table books, but no one has time for coffee anymore. They ought to be called toilet books. This is where I go when I want to pore over pictures from then and now.

Why can’t I manage to hang on to my books? Especially the ones I sought out, hand-picked, then coveted?

I found some of my lost New York books at The Strand last December. I had an urge to buy them all in an effort to once again build a carefully curated collection. This would have been a redux since once before — on weekday afternoons at Bookman’s in Tucson — I spent my lunch hour scanning the children’s section for the titles lost in the Flood.

= =

I say it, but I don’t yet fully believe it: That there is something worthwhile in losing.

==

Except this.

I accept the hardcover original edition of Key to the Treasure, but I do so with a gentle stab of reluctance. I understand it’s the story I was wild about when I was nine — Jed and Bill and Liza and the feathered bonnet and the sorrow of missed connections passed down through the generations — not the texture of the pages or the color illustration on the cover. And yet, I want back what was once mine.

After all, if I had wanted to part with it I would have. I would have piled my copy of the book on top of the others that were going to Good Will. But I didn’t. I kept it on my shelf and then placed it in a cardboard box which I labelled “Jen’s books” before my father carried it down to the basement.

Those books, I believed, were meant to be found again one day.

= =

I say it, but I don’t yet fully believe it: That there is something worthwhile in losing.

= =

I can have almost anything I want: a Fisher Price Sesame Street set, a pair of gently-used docksiders, a Speak and Spell, an autographed pull-out poster of Mackenzie Astin. People are buying and selling my faded memories…and yours… all the time.

I can have almost anything I want.

==

And yet, there is something worthwhile in the losing. In the being lost.

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What is a classic?

What is a classic?

The Giving Tree in English. But not in Hebrew.

What is a classic?

The Wonder Years. Especially the one in which Paul becomes a bar mitzvah. Or any episode with The Byrds as background music.

What is a classic?

Mighty Love. Let My Love Open the Door. All You Need is Love. In My Room.

What is a classic?

Cornbread. Warmed.

What is a classic?

Square dancing in gym class. Sorry, more Wonder Years.

What is a classic?

I don’t know. Classics are supposed to be timeless and yet some classics have changed for me with time.  Like, The Giving Tree used to be IT for me and now I suppose The Missing Piece is. But that just happened 15 minutes ago. Can it be a classic already? Moby Dick is not a classic, and yet it is, just not for me. Not yet. But it might be one day and then I will look back at today and realize I was ignorant of the classics. The Wizard of Oz is a classic, but I’ve watched it too many times and now it is a classic, but stale.

Like The Shawshank Redemption.

Like TBS.

Like Apple Pie.

I suppose if I had to say, a classic is that which makes me cry when I am not sad.

What is a classic?

The tune to My Darling Clementine.

Mint.

Feet in the sand.

The Barbie Dreamhouse with the elevator.

Jim Croce.

Half-burnt marshmallow on a stick.

Josh and Jodie.

My dad’s green fiat.

Pepsi Free.

Yesterday.

That time my Bubbi cried at Denny’s because her eggs were runny.

That time my brother threw a rootbeer bottle at me.

That time the car was stuck in the mud in a rainstorm, but I only remember that one in a dream.

What is a classic?

Forgot my locker combo.

Forgot to study for the final.

Left my passport at home.

What is a classic?

“These poems do not live: it’s a sad diagnosis.”

What is a classic?

“In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves reduced to I
and the whole thing became silly, ironic, terrible.”

What is a classic?

“It is startling
to realize that
some of our most cherished memories
may never have happened — or may
have happened to someone else.”

What is a classic?

What is         a classic?

——–

The above contains poetry by Sylvia Plath (“Stillborn”) and Adrienne Rich (“In Those Years”), and commentary on memory by Oliver Sacks

The Situation

I don’t write about it because

writing about it

would be like the abortive attempt I made

in my spiral bound notebook —

the one with the mandala —

to describe the scene

with the wedding gown,

in the ground floor shop

of my dream last night.

The one with Winona Ryder who

donned a 1920s inspired

off-white sleeveless gown

(really, they were cap sleeves).

I opened the curtain of

the dressing room to find her

half-naked due to the

deep and dramatic V

reaching down her abdomen

revealing the

underscoop of her breasts

and half of one nipple.

“It’s beautiful,” I told her.

“But you’ll need to have it altered.

I’m worried they won’t be able

to maintain the look

once it’s fitted to your frame.”

She didn’t listen.

She told the seamstress to

press on and then, of course,

the dream shifted to the scene

in the ice cream shop

where the chiropractor I used

to know was offering me pills —

rat poison packaged as RU486 flavored

jelly beans.

They were red, with the taste of cherry,

and they made me gag as I chewed them.

So you see why

I can’t write about it.

There is beauty

and there is darkness

and they blend together at times

in a way that’s describable

but only to the point of

surreal not to the point

of understanding.

Not to the point

at which you know

you have  navigated

directly into my thoughts.

 

Throw my suitcase out there, too

The best coworker I ever had was the one who every morning sat with me for a half hour while drinking our morning coffee and did dream analysis with me.

She was good.

So was I.

Coffee + dream analysis = best way to start the morning.

I’m pretty decent on my own, but it’s more fun to analyze your dreams with a friend. I also really enjoy showing people the obvious connections they are missing. It’s pretty hilarious as a listener to understand immediately that your friend is simply exploring her fear of intimacy in her dreams of lesbian sex with the boss, when she can hardly sputter out the words, “sex with….”

Anyway, last night I had a version of a recurring dream I’ve had since moving to Israel 3 1/2 years ago. It was a few hours after waking, however, during shavasana (the deep relaxation at the end of yoga class) that I understood it. When I got it, though, I laughed out loud it was so obvious. Had I shared it over coffee with an experienced dream analyzer, she would have understood it in 30 seconds.

In the dream, I am in my childhood bedroom. I am an adult. I am there with two black duffel bags. I am packing for Israel. I realize that I have forgotten to pack my childhood books to send on the cargo shipment by boat. The books will certainly put me over the 50 lb weight limit the airline allows. I also realize a lot of my clothes are still in the drawers. Clothes I could use in Israel. Thick socks and the like.

I start making piles.

Piles to bring. Piles to part with.

Some items are easier to put in the “part with” pile than others.

I resent this process. I want it all to come with me. Not the old, stretched out long sleeve tees, but I want the socks and the books. Why should I have to leave them behind?

I notice, too, the formica furniture set is still in really good condition and I wonder why we didn’t ship it to Israel. We could have used it there.

But the furniture, I am able to let go of pretty easily. Not the books, though. I continue to make piles.

Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

My 5 year old daughter appears. She has some extra room in her duffel. She lets me put books in there. I am grateful. I rearrange some of her clothes to make more room. I wish I had a bigger bag — a large sturdy suitcase would allow for more weight than this duffel.

Suddenly, I am on the plane. I have a white cardboard box, the kind you use to store files, and it’s filled with paperback books. I am able to lift it up into the overhead compartment despite its weight. I worry the flight attendant will call me out on this, but she does not. Instead, she gives me a resigned look and allows it.

I wake up.

Feel free to leave your dream in the comments and I will be happy to give you my analysis in return.

Thanks to Corvidae in the Fields for inspiring this post with his recent one on the “Cube test.