Some days, just before full sunrise, as the darkness in the eastern sky begins its surrender to dawn, I have these dreams. Securely wrapped in my comforter, far too much room in the king-size bed, I cling to the numbness of sleep and slip deeper beneath the waves of memory until they carry me away to another world.
My children are yet young, and small, and there is nothing quite so intoxicating as their unending laughter and their enduring smiles. Each girl retains a small swell of baby flesh at the wrist, and their tiny hands and fingers still disappear within mine, as we walk along wooded paths beneath birch and pine trees, the warm early summer sun dappled through the branches, easily lighting our way. On this day at the bungalow colony they wear identical sundresses, and strap sandals, and elastics wrap their downy blonde hair in pigtails. Each child is perfect and pure, a small smattering of freckles over each nose and beneath their dancing eyes—light green—like their mother. They chatter incessantly, one question following another—how high is the sun, where do we find salamanders, when are we going swimming, can we go for ice cream soon, why does this tree have leaves when that one has needles?
Sunday mornings are for breakfast at the Burger King just outside of Monticello. My youngest, her appetite ravenous, selfishly attacks and devours three mini sandwiches—bacon, egg and cheese—and two small bags of hash browns (really little potato discs). The girls plead that I forgo work and spend the week in the country, to visit them in the middle of their camp day, and rescue them from routine with daddy-daughter horseback riding or hiking or salamander hunting. I linger over coffee until they’ve completed their destruction of the remnants of their breakfast. I check the Sunday paper for the Met and Yankee box-scores, and as we are close to leaving to return to the bungalow colony I feel the encroaching trepidation of my impending trip home, to the city, and all it portends—work, phone calls, bills, responsibilities.
In my dreams it is always summer and it is always a weekend. I flee from the city each Thursday afternoon, or, sometimes late in the morning. The top of the convertible is down, the air creases my face and my hair as I race up the West Side Highway towards the GW, and beyond the span the Palisades, then the Quikway. The car stereo pumps out driving music—classic rock and roll. Steepenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” The Beatles’ “Drive My Car,” Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty,” The Allman’s Ramblin’ Man. As the exits on the Palisades Parkway drop away, and the road winds towards the mountains, I can feel myself letting go, easing, like a fist that slowly relaxes. The sun cuts through the foliage as I hit Route 6, and the mountain pass through Harriman “State Park.” I smile. Four days lay ahead—four days with my wife and my kids and my friends. Four days of golf, and partying, and playing with the kids in the pool, and maybe fishing at the trout preserve where they make you purchase everything you catch, and we always end up with too much fish. Four evenings of tucking the kids beneath summer quilts, and reading Goodnight Moon, The Cat in the Hat, and The Gingerbread Boy, before kissing them good night. Four days in shorts and tee shirts, bathing suits and sandals. Four days away from work and strain, where the phone hardly rings and the mail never comes.
Late on Saturday night—into Sunday morning—after a night in the casino, we’ll send the babysitter back to her bungalow. My wife and I will check the kids, then giggle like teenagers as we tumble to the summer mattress. In my dreams time has been transposed. It is before the anger and the acrimony and the long good-bye. We are yet young, and still lovers and we are both gentle and strong with each other in the sweet Catskill night. Afterwards, I watch her in sleep, and then stand at the foot of my children’s beds, and I pray for their safe future, all the time wondering how and why God has chosen me to be so blessed.
In dreams the days never end. The trees are full, the sun is high, the breeze is soft, and the jasmine is sweet. In dreams each at bat in softball is a line drive up the middle, each golf swing splits the fairway, every thunderstorm is glorious and results in a power outage so that a hundred Shabbos’ candles ethereally light the colony. Mosquitoes, bees and ants are mysteriously absent from my dreams. There are no arguments with friends, no domestic disagreements, and no shortage of cash. In dreams all is splendid and agreeable—painstakingly molded to be paradise.
And I realize that in dreams, it is not very different from how it was in real life. It was paradise. At least for me. It was a time when we were in love, and our children were still innocent and unscathed by our impending estrangement. Our friends had not yet chosen sides, our family was whole, our lives were sweet, and our summers pristine.
Some days I return there, still. In morning, it is as it had been. I would prop up on one arm in the bungalow’s bedroom and trace the zebra stripes cut by the sun and the blinds across my wife’s sweet face as she slept. Then I’d await the charge of our small children to our bed, to play wrestle, and give shark bites, and tickle and tease, before rising to take in another perfect summer day at the bungalow colony.
Some days I have these dreams.
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