Childhood Dreams

I grew up on a lakefront. Our house was about thirty feet from the lake’s edge, and two docks stood on either side at water level, one with a small rowboat turned upside down on it. When my sister and I were small, our mother would strap lifejackets on us and set us afloat in the water by the south dock. The notion was that the lake would be a perfect babysitter, but in reality, Mom was always nearby, watching to ensure that we were upright and OK.

As we paddled, bobbed, and floated on those lazy summer afternoons, sometimes a water snake would surface and head our way. We would scream and splash until it would change course and eventually submerge. Soon after it was out of sight, I would feel something touching my leg, and of course, I was convinced it was the snake. I would panic and kick and splash, swimming toward the dock as fast as I could. As I got older, I came to understand that the bumping was either my imagination or a small fish nibbling at me underwater.

I have spent virtually all of my adult life, from twenty-three years old forward, recording my dreams. Soon after I began to do so, I dedicated several pages of my dream journal to dreams that I remembered from my childhood. The project sounds daunting, but I was able to recall only four from my early years. Just four short dreams stuck in my mind from my awakening days as a toddler until I graduated from college.

The first dream is set at the lake where I lived, and in it, the water is teeming with snakes. The mass of serpents completely fills the lake’s basin, and floating on their tangled backs about halfway to the island is a canoe. Jesus stands serenely in the bow of the canoe holding a basketball. I awaken startled by the vividness of the dream, and I cry out to my mother to come to the door of my room.

Whenever I had what I then referred to as a bad dream, my mother would appear at my bedroom door and assure me that everything was all right. Sometimes, when a dream perturbed me greatly, my parents would allow me to crawl into bed with them. In the morning, though, I would always wake up in my own room with no memory of having been transported there.

My father was also supportive when I had nightmares, but he would simply call out that things were OK and expect that I would calm down and fall back asleep. In the evenings before going to bed, he would instruct me to tell myself not to dream during the night. He promised that if I did so, no dream would materialize. I tried it, and from that point forward, I remembered fewer dreams. As an adolescent and young adult, I remembered none at all.

The second dream is of a mixture of species of large dinosaurs, and they are chasing me on the road that runs on the top of the dam along the lake’s southern shore. I scream with terror, looking back as they gain ground on me, and my legs become weak and feel as if I am slogging through thick mud. I wake up before the monsters catch me, and I don’t know if my mother comes to my door that time. I remember few details about the dinosaurs’ aspects, but I clearly recall the paralyzing fear and my overwhelming weakness as I flee.

Dream three’s action takes place in my bedroom and probably affects me for a longer time than the others. I dream that I am lying awake in bed and a demon about my size creeps out from under the bed and peeks over the edge at me, smiling. I awaken with a start, call out to my mom with trepidation, and huddle under the covers until she appears at the door.

From then on, I would check under both sides of my bed each night before crawling in. Inspecting the side against the wall always was a traumatic experience. Sometimes, I would wait until one of my parents was in the hallway outside my room before looking quickly over the edge and jumping under the covers. I lay facing the door and was careful not to turn toward the wall, just in case I had missed spotting the devil in my search.

The fourth dream’s drama occurs in an empty room. The ceiling is high, and I am near the door, which is wooden and engraved with figures I cannot identify. I decide to leave, but as I move toward the door, I turn and see a spot high on the opposite wall, and immediately, a deep fear of the spot overcomes me. I panic, scream, and fly directly at the spot as I awaken. My mother does not save me this time, and the spot makes more of an immediate impression on me than anything that appears in the other dreams. I remain awake for a long time before falling asleep again.

One problem with not recording my dreams as a child is that now that I would like to examine them more circumspectly, I cannot say with certainty in what order they occurred. Fortunately, the sequence may not matter, because many dreams are timeless and allow us to digest them in any order. My perception is that these dreams came to me over a period of several years and in the order that I relate them here.

One theme of the last three dreams is fear. A professional dream analyst might focus on something entirely different, but fear, in my view, is central to the dreams. Interestingly, the dream of Jesus in a boat on a snake-filled lake is the earliest and the one that contains the least fear. Jesus is unaffected by the snakes, and I, the dreamer, awaken with mere revulsion at the idea of so many of them filling our wonderful lake. Three dreams display extreme fear, and one shows a lack of it.

I believe, however, that the true common denominator of these four dreams is not fear, but rather their display of archetypal elements. What could be more basic to one’s psychic makeup than serpents, monsters, devils, and unidentifiable sources of fear? The reason these dreams are so memorable for me is that they extend deep into my psyche to a place where archetypes reside. They deal with subjects that have little to do with my day-to-day life at the time.

An experienced analyst present when I recounted these dreams as a child would have felt no need to ask me or my parents about my outer-world experiences during that part of my life. These dreams are sufficient in themselves and require no waking personal information to make them complete.

 
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9 comments… add one

  • Ann February 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I remember your having very vivid dreams. I also recall conversations with daddy as we went to bed so that we would have a good night’s sleep. Reassuring. I vaguely recall dreams you would have about the clown picture. Or was that an incorrect account? I would walk in my sleep but dream very little. Interesting that your dreams were so clearly focused on our experiences at the lake. I think of your writings in “Bernard Trammel” as I read this. Your intelligence is expressed as you are awake and sleeping. I enjoyed this article. Ann

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  • Luzma February 26, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Qué interesante que tienes un diario de sueños. Vale la pena esa exploración con tu “niño interior”. Gracias por compartir.

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  • Doug Eikermann February 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Es algo que comencé cuando estaba en el servicio naval, y lo he seguido haciendo desde entonces. Me ha revelado mucho sobre mi mismo y algo sobre la vida en general. Gracias, LuzMa, por leer el ensayo y por hacer tu comentario.

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  • Sharon February 28, 2012 at 12:21 am

    I don’t have a memory trail as you do from childhood but I sure dream alot these days. I’m doing better at keeping track of them. I respect that space. I had a Russian woman visit me awhile back; she spoke to me in that language and I ‘got’ what it was she was talking to me about. She was from another place and time, much earlier than such technology of today. Her gaze and persistence in talking to me was amazing. I can still see her face. She came back twice before I paid attention to her, she was that persistent! And I trust what she said to me. So, I’m happy to hear from you about your archetypal experiences. Thanks, Doug

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  • Doug Eikermann February 28, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Had I not recorded those four dreams when I was in my twenties, I might not have them so clearly in my memory today. It’s interesting that your dreams of the Russian woman tried the same thing several times. You must have given some indication that that particular communication might work. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  • Steve March 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    So that is the reason that the imagery in your writing is so crisp and the meanings so universal – the creatures evoke a child’s awareness. Very interesting. The emphasis in your writing is different than in your adult thought. This info is stored separately in the mind, and shows in only one context. I live and learn, even about good friends.
    Again, an enjoyable piece of writing. It would be interesting to know the correlations of your adult dreams to environmental stimuli.

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  • Doug Eikermann March 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Without question, writing fiction causes me to go into another gear, and perhaps that mindset is childish. It certainly requires a lot of trust. With respect to my adult dreams, some of them may be generated by outer-world stimuli, but more often, I think, the dreams use familiar outer symbols to make inner points. Thanks, Steve, for reading the piece and for taking the time to comment.

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  • Daisy May 6, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Hola es daisy si lei tis articulos y me gusto este entonces me parece ke tu eres un bueno niño y todaia eres te quiero mucho adios aver si lees lobque te escribe

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  • Doug Eikermann May 7, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    ¡Gracias, Daisy! ¡Es maravilloso oír de ti! Por supuesto he leído lo que me escribiste, y me encanta que hayas leído el artículo sobre los sueños y que hayas escrito un comentario. ¡Yo también te quiero mucho! ¡Un fuerte abrazo!

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