In December, 2015, I enjoyed a conversation with the hosts of Life Mastery Radio, Todd Allen and Debby Handrich. They are located in the Puget Sound area, and it was nice to touch base with a community where I lived for over 30 years. Here is the discussion we had about learning, disabilities, abilities and the power of personal narrative in our lives. I hope you enjoy listening.
At its best, Facebook is a forum where people who may never have the opportunity to meet in person, exchange ideas, build connections, and learn from one another. I met Gina Edwards, founder and editor of Around the Writer’s Table, when she posted in a writer’s group about the importance of encouraging writers and readers to share their stories. As you can imagine, this sentiment is near and dear to my heart.
This essay is not representative of the conversations we had sitting around my mother’s kitchen table; however, even coffee conversations evolve.
Gina and I exchanged emails and she invited me to submit a guest post. Her work connecting new writers to an audience is greatly appreciated.
I hope you enjoy my musings and I welcome your comments.
Virginia Califano of the Putnam County News and Recorder interviewed Anita about The Coffee Stories. Read what this Cold Spring journalist had to say about these stories and songs depicting her hometown.
There is calmness to falling in love after that certain age. Maybe it’s because biology and time have predetermined our course. We are past the age of creating children, and we have certain aspects of our life stabilized. Even if there is not great wealth, Social Security and Medicare will guarantee a minimal quality of life, and in my case, the forethought of generations before me will help with some of the expenses that I had not had the wisdom to anticipate. We are ready to simplify our lives, and bask in the appreciation of each other, and that’s why, “In this world of ordinary people, extraordinary people, I am glad there is” us.1
I first heard Jimmy sing when my hairdresser friend Pam invited me to join her and her mom for an evening of dinner and a cappella Doo Wop. What I didn’t know was that Pam was an aficionado of the genre, one that I had thought of as corny and perhaps even lacking in musicality.
Pam’s husband, Ed, sang those extremely high falsetto parts and had a smoky lead voice that pulled you in. Jimmy sang, as I learned later, second tenor and baritone, occasionally stretching into first tenor when Ed sang lead. He also had the kind of lead voice that soared from the depths of his body and poured into the room, blanketing you with his heart-on-his-sleeve sound. Anchoring each song were the bah, bah, bah bass tones of Kenny, whose matter-of-fact attitude reminded me of the comfort I felt whenever my dad’s common sense eyes caught mine in a crisis. Filling out the sound was Charlie, who blended beautifully with the background harmony, which created a kind of woven canvas upon which each lead painted his picture in pitch, rhythm, tone and words, accentuated by gestures, snaps and poses. Their first song of the evening, “Sixteen Candles,” silenced the room, and a few couples held hands or exchanged knowing glances. My musical ears, novice to this experience, were drawn to the clarity and warmth of tone, if not yet to the style. The evening progressed and I watched Pam and her mom, affectionately known as Grandma, mouth and occasionally sing along with each song. I realized that this music, so unfamiliar and prejudged by me, was really another incarnation of the Porch Music of my youth. A few songs into the evening, I stopped thinking about Doo Wop as a genre of music, and started to see and hear the rich relationship of personality, harmony, rhythm, melody, lyric and phrasing that came together to create the alchemy that beckoned the modest but dedicated audience to sing along, vigorously applaud, and call out requests for their favorite songs. As I glanced about the room, it was clear to me that the audience was reliving memories associated with their favorite Platters or Johnny Maestro songs: a couple’s first dance leading to that first kiss, sweet sixteen birthdays and first proms, and walking daughters down the aisle. They were optimistic songs of love, and heartbreaking songs of failed relationships, sung from the heart by guys who lived their day to day lives as steeled men of the 1940’s and 50’s, seemingly detached from such raw sentiment.
When the group, known as “Days Gone By,” took their first break, the guys made the rounds, table to table, greeting everyone as if they were long lost friends. They lingered longer at our table, showering attention on Grandma who, nearly ninety, met them head-on as they exchanged jokes and endearments. Pam introduced me to each of the guys, and when she told Jimmy that I sang jazz, there was an immediate awkwardness between us. I attempted to fill it by commenting on the beautiful arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which he attributed to The Dimensions.
Actually, I was a bit bothered by the arrangement, which rearranged the words and melody of the original song. Judy Garland’s singing of this song in The Wizard of Oz is akin to a religious experience. But I did like the harmonies and Jimmy’s voice effortlessly soared on the high notes. It was the last song in their set, and I knew by the look on his face that he was pleased with the performance. I’m not sure what prompted me to ask if he had ever considered learning the verse that preceded the song. I then proceeded to recite the words: “When all the world is a hopeless jumble, and the raindrops tumble all around, heaven opens a magic lane…”2 Jimmy looked up at me blankly, thanked me for the idea, and took his leave. I stayed for one more set before making my excuses to Grandma and Pam, and headed home with a rejected feeling that was reminiscent of my experiences of high school dances. That was my first introduction to the attitudes and etiquette of the world of doo wop, and I had fumbled. Doo Wop is what it is, and it is unthinkable that it could be different. The world of Doo Wop is akin to Jimmy’s religious experience.
It was several months before Pam talked to me about Jimmy again. I hadn’t realized, but her first invitation was meant as an introduction to Jimmy, who Pam thought might be just what I needed to shake up my life a bit. Since moving from Seattle back to my childhood home in Cold Spring, I hadn’t gone on a single date.
Two years had passed, my divorce was nearly final, I had permanent work, and I had adopted a dog. I was in touch with a jazz guitarist, with a promise that we would get together to look at my old set lists and perhaps I would venture out to a few jam sessions and get back into singing. I hadn’t thought about dating, but Pam was prodding me in that direction. As she cut my hair, she told me that the guys and their wives were gathering for an impromptu birthday party for Charlie. Jimmy was the only unmarried member of the group. I could come and hang out with them. Maybe something would gel. Pam is not a person who easily takes no for an answer. My hair was already done; I could go home, feed and walk Sammy, and throw on some make-up and a clean blouse. So that is what I did.
When I got back to Pam’s I sat for a long time in the driveway, wondering if I should go in. Ed came out and saw me there and kindly treated me as if I had just arrived. He opened my door, took me by the arm, and chatted easily with me as we went upstairs to join the party. A glass of wine, a stool to perch on, a small plate of fruit and cheese, and I figured I could blend into the décor, become invisible. Of course, Pam didn’t allow that. She made a deal of introducing me to everyone.
“You remember Anita, don’t you? She is my friend, the jazz singer.”
Jimmy stayed in the other room where the Yankee’s game was playing without sound. We were in an open concept kitchen-dining room-living room where everything was visible and yet you could pull away and ignore the conversation if so inclined. I was grateful that he had chosen to occupy himself with the ballgame. When he made his way past my stool, almost a half hour later, he stopped to compliment me on my hair and then asked what I thought of baseball.
“I’m not sure,” I replied. “Is Mickey Mantle still playing?”
Again, I saw that blank stare, but this time after a moment that seemed to last forever, he laughed. “Fair enough,” he replied.
As I sat and watched, he blended into the conversation surrounding me, making jokes, slapping backs, all the time fully aware of the silent game on the big screen in the living room. We had a couple of other short interactions. I poured my second glass of wine, chatted with gals, all the while failing to notice that, while I had said goodbye as people were leaving, everyone had gone home. Only Jimmy and I were left at the party. We were standing around chatting in the kitchen with Ed and Pam. Even Grandma had retreated to her room.
“Oh, it must be late. I have to walk Sammy,” I said looking a bit surprised and embarrassed.
Jimmy looked up and met my eyes. He has really beautiful eyes, and a full head of wavy silver hair that I expect some men envy.
Pam spoke up quickly. “Hey, what are we doing for the fourth of July?” It was just a few days away.
“Let’s all go to dinner,” Jimmy volunteered. Pam and Ed nodded in agreement. “Well,” Jimmy looked at me again. “Want to go to dinner with me?”
I’m not sure how long it took me to answer. “Sure,” I said in a choked voice.
“Date,” he replied.
When Jimmy came to pick me up on the 4th of July, I was standing in my kitchen, fussing about, tidying things that didn’t need tidying. Earlier in the day I had been crawling around on my hands and knees, getting all the weeds out from the place where the curb and street meet, and along my driveway. I mowed the lawn, weeded the garden beds and made sure the pool was vacuumed and netted, the back porch and kitchen were in order, and Sammy was fed and walked. Then I took a long bath, did my hair, dressed down in comfortable jeans which I dressed up with heels, a necklace and a fitted top, spent a little extra time on my eyes, and managed to be ready a half hour early.
Jimmy arrived on time with flowers. He was also dressed in jeans, but his were pressed with a sharp crease, and he wore dress shoes. He entered the house asking me how I had spent the day.
“Doing what all self-respecting Italian girls do on the 4th of July, yard work,” I replied.
This time he smiled, and glanced out the window, “I can see. I don’t mean to upset you, but your zipper’s down.”
We all met at Shadows on the Hudson in Poughkeepsie. I had never been there, and allowed myself to be taken by the ambiance, with sweeping river views and upscale décor. I drank a martini, extra cold, shaken with an olive. We ate dinner, laughed, and told stories. My brother’s group, The Crossroads Band, was playing in Hyde Park, so we went to hear him. We danced and stayed out until the wee small hours.
Jimmy and I have been together ever since that evening.
I’ve grown to learn a lot about Doo Wop, both the culture and the music. Just as there is a culture to the jazz community, there is a culture in the Doo Wop community. Jimmy’s group sings at car shows, neighborhood street fairs, weddings, anniversaries, police and firefighter benefits, and early dinner shows. Doo Wop singers are never in the background. They are a show, and the audience participates; they sing along, but never obtrusively. Between songs the audience talks about their favorite groups and offers stories about shows that they have attended. They reminisce about important life experiences connected to songs. When the music starts, the conversation hushes. They are reverent in a fun and celebratory way.
I was surprised to discover the complexities of the music. While Jimmy and I often sing the same songs, they are hardly recognizable as the same. I play with the structure and melody, inventing new melody and rhythm each time I sing. Doo Wop relies on singing songs the same way every time, and this consistency is the glue that holds the music together. As I listen and learn to recognize each individual voice in a beautiful blended harmony, I have grown to love and appreciate the sound. It isn’t easy to bring five voices together and, without instruments, craft a song that is lush and at the same time makes you hang on to every word.
I went to more than one of the rehearsals, usually at Pam’s and Ed’s house. I didn’t hang out with the guys as they rehearsed. Pam and I had tea and chatted as we listened from the kitchen. Eavesdropping, I realized that this music, which used to be sung on street corners in the Bronx and Queens as neighbors gathered on the pavement or opened their apartment windows to listen, is like the Porch Music of my childhood, where neighbors gathered to listen from their front yards. Perhaps that is what draws and connects me to Jimmy in a powerful way. We understand that music is community. We also hold close our families. Jimmy brings the same sturdiness to his children and to me that he brings to Doo Wop. He anchors us by always looking to what is uplifting.
Jimmy and I had been together a few months when I finally had that first rehearsal with guitarist, Dennis Winge. Jimmy attended the jazz jam that Dennis hosted in Pleasantville on the night I sang “Besamé Mucho” and was hired for my first gig since moving back from Seattle. His introduction to jazz mirrored my journey into Doo Wop; it was an improbable fit. Yet, Jimmy has been at my side each time I sing, setting up and taking down sound equipment, and greeting my friends with the same attentiveness he shows his own audience.
I’ve gotten comfortable in my love for Jimmy. We have gotten comfortable with each other. He understands why I write and sing. I understand that Doo Wop is a part of the fabric of Jimmy. He is the guy in the song, “Take Me As I Am,” a heart-on-his-sleeve, “plain and simple Joe. He’s not perfect, nor does he claim to be so…”3
“As we stroll along together,”4 blending our lives and creating new memories, I am happy for this ‘certain age love.’ And Jimmy, “I’m Glad There Is You.”
“I’m Glad There is You” by Jimmy Dorsey and George Madeira, published 1945
“Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg, published 1939
“Take me as I Am” by J. Canzano and J. Santollo, published 1962
“So Much in Love” by George Williams and Bill Jackson, published 1963
Take Me As I Am by The Magic Touch, Jimmy on lead
About Jimmy Santerello
Jimmy started singing at age 14 on the streets of Brooklyn. He formed his first group with his brother, Brother’s Flesh in 1970. Jimmy was also the lead singer of The Diggers, Opus, The Ultimates, The Treble Chords, and sang with The Magic Touch and Times Square, opening oldies shows for Johnny Maestro and The Brooklyn Bridge, The Duprees, The Drifters, and The Skyliners. Jimmy currently sings with Days Gone By, an a cappella doo wop group, performing in the Hudson Valley. Jimmy is a harmony specialist and sings baritone, second tenor and first tenor. Feel free to contact Jimmy, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, Bob Nelson, one of the directors of the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society, reviewed The Coffee Stories. I met Bob when I was touring as a folk musician with David Baumgarten in the late ’70’s. I was a member of the Seattle folk community and a regular host and participant in their weekly Song Circle, as close as I could get to making Porch Music in Seattle. Bob, a talented and dedicated singer and collector of songs, is responsible for an extensive archive of folk concerts recorded in peoples homes and in small coffee houses dating back to 1954. This link, http://guides.lib.washington.edu/nelson will take you to this archive housed at the University of Washington.
We are counting down 2014, and for me it is a time of reflection. I think of the New Year as the start of a new story, but to thread the old and new I have a habit of looking back and acknowledging the people, events and small moments that have colored the year. The Coffee Stories has existed as a blog for almost a year. My son, Jesse, gifted me this blog last Christmas. His behind the scenes expertise as a writer, listener and blog administrator has made this possible. The ways that my son has supported my life are to numerous to count. He and I have forged an adult relationship that celebrates our parent / child roles and at the same time honors our friendship.
At home and at work, I have learned that taking care of others begins with taking care of myself. My year-long battle with asthma has made me rethink effort, and I now ask myself if what I am doing is truly necessary, wanted and needed. By doing this, many of the things that I have done by habit have fallen away, and new, more meaningful practices have emerged. This is not something I learned to do in my childhood. But if I go back and listen carefully to the thoughts my mom shared when she became ill, I realize that she has encouraged me along this path. And by so doing, I have found time to do something that I had not allowed myself to do before, record.
With each post of The Coffee Stories, I realized that I was only sharing half of the story, as the musical counterpart of each story was missing. And, as I am a storyteller first and new to the practice of writing stories down for others to read, I have never trusted that I am conveying my intended meaning in print. My dyslexia has added to this distrust of my written word. So, this summer, I set out to record The Coffee Stories in the comfort LWR Productions, Steve Raleigh’s in-home recording studio in New Paltz, NY. This in-home environment was the perfect setting to learn about the intricacies of recording readings and songs, and fit the atmosphere of The Coffee Stories. This is a simple recording, my readings and vocals and Steve Raleigh’s truly beautiful guitar interpretations. The result is a two CD set, one of stories and their associated songs, the other of song. It is my hope that these recordings will bring to life my memories of growing up in Cold Spring, NY in the mid 1950’s through early 1970’s from a child’s perspective where the backdoor was always open, neighbors shared the bounties of their gardens and on summer Saturday evenings sat out in their front yards to listen to the Porch Music; and the stories and songs of the antics and discoveries of my own son, written and told from a mother’s perspective. When I first started writing these stories, I indulged myself in the vision of the multi-generational families who would read and even listen together to these stories and songs. Perhaps with this recording, my vision is now possible.
I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has read The Coffee Stories, followed my music and in other ways touched my life. In many ways this project was possible because of your support and encouragement. I invite you to click the link below, where you can preview and purchase The Coffee Stories, Musical Memoir From Cold Spring and Beyond. May the coming year be filled with stories that, while not always perfect or happy, enrich your life and bring the people who you love closer together.
It is Father’s Day. I’ve never been much for Hallmark holidays, but I make exception for Father’s Day. Miss you, Daddy, today and every day. Somehow, you never seem far away. This memory is one of my favorites.
Icy Blue Slippers
If you asked me who I was when I was 6 years old, I would have told you I was Daddy’s Little Girl. I never doubted my place in Daddy’s eyes and one of the first songs I learned to play on the miniature accordion Nonno brought home from New York City was Daddy’s Little Girl.
My dad was the perfect 1950’s father, and I lived in the perfect 1950’s home, with two loving parents and two children, a boy and a girl. Everything balanced perfectly. Our family was extended by Nonno, Uncle Paul and Aunt Connie who lived in the other half of our home, a home where Mommy was raised, a home that Daddy turned into a duplex the year I was born.
Daddy was a work hard, play hard man. During his career at IBM he worked his way from janitor to tool room manager. In the evenings and weekends he installed TV antennas on neighbor’s roofs and teamed up with his brothers and brother-in-laws to help each other with the maintenance of their homes. When work was done, Daddy played. He played cards at the fire station, showed off riding a bike backwards up Duffy Hill, and went out with the guys on a Friday night after work. He and mommy went to the dances at the VFW and church hall, winning dancing contests and staying out until the Wee Small Hours. Each summer there was a trip to Atlantic City, Saturday evenings at Monticello watching the ponies run, Sunday dinners at Grandma’s and sometimes at Gino’s, and when I was in my teens, Saturday nights at Dockside Restaurant. All of these experiences color the landscape of my childhood memories. Later these same memories would frame the measure of my own success as a mother.
Daddy was always the provider first, Johnny on the spot, fixer of any problem. Nothing was too daunting. He could tear down walls and add on rooms, re-roof a house or unclog the worst plumbing disaster. He was the person that the family called to solve all those fix-it problems. Never one to procrastinate, at the first mention of need he was there ready to make the repair. Appliances seldom died at our house. Daddy always found a way to have them running good as new and reporting for duty in no time at all.
When I first realized how rare my relationship was with Daddy, I was a teenager and he was a newly elected Village Father. This was the late 1960’s and the atmosphere was terse with rebellion and disregard for that perfect 1950’s world. Most of my friends were at odds with their parents, as we struggled to make sense of peace, love and the Woodstock generation. My Dad never missed an opportunity to engage me in conversation about the latest media hot topic. He weaved intelligent and reasonable arguments that completely toppled my emotional responses. We talked this way for hours at the kitchen table or around the living room coffee table. Daddy, always thoughtful, logical, and deeply connected to his beliefs, defined what he stood for in those very fragile and unstable times. He never criticized, but rather listened and challenged.
For a time, I rejected my dad’s ideals. After my own son was born, I found myself saying and doing many of the same things that I had rejected. It’s funny how that works.
There are many other experiences that let me know that I am my Daddy’s Little Girl. There were the daily phone calls from his office when I went off to my first year at college. He never missed a day, and at the end of each call, I’d curl up in a weeping ball on my bed. I so missed my family, but especially my dad. Years later, when I had set off to prove that I could make it on my own and on my own terms, there were the airline tickets welcoming me home for every occasion and sometimes for no occasion at all.
It was during my Brockport College days that Daddy did something that I don’t believe he had ever done before. It happened the time I came home, crammed in the back of a VW Beetle, a ride I had gotten from the college ride board. Despite his horrified expression at the sight of my driving companions, several scruffy haired men who looked as though they hadn’t seen the inside of a shower in months, Daddy welcomed me home with his usual open arms. After dinner, he called me into the living room and gave me a tissue paper package. Inside was a pair of blue crocheted slippers. I was puzzled. These slippers were not something that I would have chosen for myself or anyone else for that matter. They were bright icy blue, crocheted from shinny and tough acrylic yarn. I still remember how I felt when I put them on dancing about, showing them off to all who were present; and the daunting realization that in all my 20 years, I had never known my Dad to go out and shop for a gift. He appreciated the sentiments of a good Hallmark card, and if Mom didn’t find the perfect gift, he was overly generous with the enclosed cash. But this gift was different. It was purchased by my Dad, and it was given to me.
I learned many years later that he purchased them from a woman in the IBM parking lot who was trying to make a few extra dollars.
What you probably don’t know Dad, is that I wore those slippers for years. Like the appliances you repaired and breathed new life into, they wore like iron. Over the years, I even tried my hand at repairing them a time or two. It wasn’t until more than 25 years later, when our young pup Stormy chose them as a chew toy, that teary eyed, I parted with those slippers; those icy blue slippers that lived on my feet, a symbol of your love and care and testament to all the simple things that you did with love. And what I miss most about wearing them is the way they always reminded me that I am, still, my Daddy’s Little Girl.
It is Mother’s Day. It is a day when I am lonely for and grateful to my own mom who is no longer with us. It is also a day when I am enjoying indulgent conversation with my son. Out of the Mouth of a Babe is Jesse’s story, filtered through my eyes.
Out of the Mouth of a Babe
Jesse was always a verbal child. Cooing, aahing, and crying his point of view to the world, he never explored in silence. I may have had something to do with this verbose quality, as when I was pregnant I spent many hours daily rehearsing story and song, as well as touring and performing sometimes four shows a day. Then there were the daily phone calls to NY, delivering the pregnancy report to mom and anyone else who would listen. I think the only real quiet that Jesse experienced at that time was when I slept. And, even then, my dreams were loud enough to wake us both. But that’s another story…
Perhaps that is why I was at first indifferent when Jesse announced boldly, “I’m Me, Mommy.”
“Yes, that’s right, you are you” I replied absently.
We were driving along in our aging Toyota pickup, Jesse strapped into the then top of the line forward facing child safety seat, approaching slowing traffic, cars weaving about us in a mad dash to get nowhere fast. He was not daunted by my lack of attention.
“Mommy, I’m me,” he insisted. “My hands are me.”
I glanced over to see him waving his hands totally absorbed in their movements.
“Yes,” I said vaguely, “your hands.”
Jesse continued, “My head is me.” And as I glanced at him, I saw his head bobbing from side to side.
I began to realize that something important was happening in Jesse’s world, and I reached out and touched his head, “Yes honey, that’s right, your head is you.”
“Mommy, Mommy,” Jesse was becoming more excited as he pronounced, “My feet are me!”
While I nodded and expressed my agreement, Jesse no longer needed my responses to continue his discovery. He was on a roll!
“I’m Me! I’m Me! I’m Me” He declared with pride. “I’m Me! And I’m not YOU!” There was a brief moment of silence, and then he announced firmly “I’m me and EVERYBODY knows I’m me!”
As if it were a song I had sung all my life, I began to pick up on the rhythm of Jesse’s declarations and I sang his words back to him, “I’m me, I’m me, as everybody knows, from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. I’m me, I’m me, as everybody knows, from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.”
We sang this over and over again, the hum of the truck’s engine our only accompaniment. Suddenly Jesse declared, “I’m not a rooster!”
Crowing and giggling, Jesse tested this statement for truth. He tucked his hands under his armpits, flapping his appendages like wings and jutting his chin forward and back. When he quieted down, I sang, “If I were a rooster, I’d sing my song and I’d wake you up in the early morn.” It seemed to need more to complete the phrase, so I added “if I were a hen, I’d cackle all about and lay lots of eggs, without a doubt.”
I then launched into the chorus, and Jesse sang along, touching his head and feet as he sang. We continued this way for the long drive home. By the time we arrived, we had added a crocodile, kitty, elephant and parrot.
I may have been the one who set these words to music, but these are Jesse’s words, profound wisdom spun from the mouth of a babe.
Song: I’m Me
I’m me, I’m me as everybody knows
From the top of my head to the tip of my toes
I’m me, I’m me as every body knows
From the top of my head to the tip of my toes
If I were a rooster, I’d sing my song and wake you up in the early morn
If I were a hen, I’d cackle all about and lay lots of eggs, without a doubt
Chorus: But I’m me…
If I were a crocodile, I’d swim with ease and snap my jaws whenever I pleased
If I were a parrot, I’d awack and squack and you would call it parrot talk
If I were an elephant, I’d have a long snout and four stout legs to carry me about.
If I were a kitty, I’d purr all day and the dog would come and chase me away.
As a writer and vocalist, song lyrics often inspire me to tell a story of my own. The summer that I was a Puget Sound Writing Project Fellow, I discovered Sarah Vaughn’s version of You Stepped Out of a Dream by Nacio Herb Brown and Gus Kahn. It is also the summer that I started writing The Coffee Stories. I’m not certain if the story Dreams Loud Enough to Wake Me inspired me to learn the song, or if the song evoked the memory that resulted in this story. It really doesn’t matter. In my mind, they are intertwined.
Dreams are a funny thing. They can go unnoticed and forgotten, and then suddenly you will have a dream that totally rearranges your life.
It happened just before morning in those moments of waking sleep, when one is never quite sure if the experience is a dream or real. That’s when I first saw Jesse. I didn’t know him by name; I only knew that we were connected. In a Madonna like pose, I held a baby in my arms. There was never a doubt that he was a boy, and there was never a doubt that he was my son. I woke from this dream with a start, and sat up in bed, my knees held tight against my chest. I pondered the image of this boy, elusive, yet insistent.
I lived in a communal house bordered by protected wetlands. That morning, the sound of the geese on the lake was unrelenting, and I found myself ambling in the early morning mist. I walked for hours around the lake the distinct scent of cedar and wetlands soothing my mind. I made my way back home across the beaver dam. It was early evening. That night, I told Scot that I had dreamt our son.
Scot believed that guided dreams revealed truths, so he prepared us to sleep and remember our dreams. We meditated, and slowly and comfortingly, he took us through relaxation steps, planting the idea that we would both see this boy, and remember the images.
Nothing happened that first night. Several nights later, we repeated the meditation. We woke at the same time, somewhat startled but calm. Scot said that he looked like a Mexican boy a year or two old with giant brown eyes and lots of deep brown hair. I saw him as a 3-year-old, tan skinned and playful, hair blowing in the wind. In his sparkling eyes I saw an old soul. I would see these eyes again, almost a year later, when I first held Jesse to my breast. It was a comforting and reassuring recognition of deep familiarity.
During the months preceding Jesse’s birth, there were many more dreams. I can’t say that I remember them as vividly as I do these first two, but they were all insistent. These dreams spoke loudly in images that permeated the fabric of my mind and body, images loud enough to wake me, wanted and welcomed images that forever rearranged my world.