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11.20.2010

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

When I was a kid I lived inside my daydreams. They were so vivid and so much a part of my life that if I ever write an autobiography, it’ll be from my daydream perspective. At eight, I was a secret agent driving a Jaguar XKE, a superhero named Fantam, and a half inch high adventurer. By 10, I owned a famous nightclub where I saved world leaders from international counterfeiters. In middle school, I safely crash landed a sabotaged airplane with all my classmates aboard on a desert island where we all lived for a year before being rescued. By the time I finished high school I’d flown a balloon solo around the world, traveled the entire solar system, and invented an undersea helicopter. It was a busy life and cost me a public school education by the time I finally turned to the real world.

Tio and Kit sing. Both of them. They hum and sing aloud without even noticing. I never thought much about this when I only saw them for a few hours a week or an overnight twice a month but it was constant. Living with them this past summer became difficult, not because they were noisy, messy kids who needed attention and were underfoot all day long, but because they were always singing. Every minute of every day. When they weren’t talking they were singing over each other, with each other, and at each other. It drove me out of my wits, invading my brains so thoroughly that I couldn’t think. Literally could not think. I had to ban them from the upstairs living room if they were going to sing. “Do it downstairs, outside, or in your own head, just not here.” Wanting to stay upstairs with me they tried to stop, but failed. By the end of summer, they had at least learned to recognize they were doing it and had some success in controlling it. After school started I learned from their teachers that they both disrupted the class with their singing and humming. Fortunately, by that point they’d come far enough to curb it in school and they’re much better at home.

As the summer drew to a close, I was starting to formulate a theory about why they do this. It’s an avoidance mechanism. Humming fills your thoughts with a distraction so that thinking about and being involved in real events around you become less vivid, less real. It occurred to me that my daydreaming had was the same thing: a way to avoid the troubles in my world. An entire childhood spent living in a fog seemed a matter of choice to me before. But looking back I could see that I desperately wanted to avoid the troubles in my family, my fears at school, and a world too large for me.

The proof of this came in car rides. I would tell Tio to be quiet saying, “Let’s talk. Tell me stuff, ask questions, whatever.” After a few moments of quiet, he’d start divulging horror stories about the drug abuse and misbehavior that went on in his former home and life. The silence was an ipecac that churned ugly and frightening thoughts up from the sub of his conscious. We talked about them without judgement so he could relate them without fear of retaliation, so that they could go their own way and he could move on with his life.

There’s still a lot hidden inside those heads, camouflaged by song and other mind games we all protect ourselves with. I guess as a writer and former daydreamer I have plenty still stuck to the bottom of my own cauldron that I dare not dredge up. I don’t want to force the boys to face their fears but I know it will be healthier for them when they do.