Hamlet contains the line, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of eternal space, were it not that I have bad dreams.”
It’s a line near and dear to me because ever since I was a very small child, I have suffered greatly from bad dreams. When we lived in our little green house, my mom always blamed it on my bedroom’s high windows. Maybe it was biology… or my budding, overactive, writer’s imagination. But when I think about it, my nightmares always fell into a pattern: the animal nightmare, the Disney nightmare, the realistic nightmare, the supernatural nightmare, and the ones that defy categorization… like the half-dog in Inside Out.
The funny thing, though, is that as I got older I could make myself wake up when I got too scared… except in the realistic ones. Like I always end up taking that calculus exam I never studied for, or something even worse. I wonder why that is. But even though those can stick with me for days, nothing in the present measures up to the monster under my bed at the aforementioned little green house.
I’m not sure why I had nightmares about black leopards… the only thing I can think of was the old Looney Tunes cartoon “Tree for Two” which involves Sylvester being mistaken for one. But all I know is that for pretty much the entire time we lived there, having to get up in the middle of the night was agony because I was convinced that if I put my feet on the floor, I’d get clawed. Actually, I wasn’t all that safe on the bed, either.
It wasn’t until we moved that my nightmares really dwindled down to the occasional occurrence. But what really turned the tide was a gift from one of my mother’s colleagues– a pink and turquoise dream catcher. It was made out of sticks from her back yard, although the feathers were bought. She taught me to touch it when I went to bed to turn it on, and again in the morning to turn it off. Finally, I had to shake it out every so often to release the captured nightmares. Personally, I always envisioned it as working like a Portuguese Man’O’War… catching the nightmares in the tails and then working it up to the web.
What a difference that made! I could try to explain it logically, I suppose, but my brother and I got too much use out of ours. Like Hamlet said to Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth…” I’ll buy that in terms of my dream-catcher. Maybe it’s time I found a new one.