Last night as I was up late making sandwiches and putting snacks in baggies, I was reminded of a recurring premonition I had, beginning when I was in middle school. At the time, they were nightmares and I was always a single mom. It was unnerving, especially since I was typical product of the Bible-belt ’80’s: obsessed with picket fences and high school sweethearts who eventually celebrate double digit anniversaries.
The dreams were vivid. Cold bed sheets. Disrupted sleep. Empty aisle seats at school plays. Late at night, trying to juggle making lunches for tomorrow with IRS paperwork, kids’ homework, and my own homework interspersed.
All cruel reminders of abandonment–not just of the absentee fictional father of my dream children but also the start of me forsaking more traditional ideas of family.
In every single one of my dreams, it ended with me sitting at the table, frustrated and lonely when suddenly I see a note – a simple drawing on a piece of construction paper: our family inside a crooked heart.
It’s been twenty years since these dreams started so I was a little surprised to think of them last night. But then I was struck with the fact I am that woman from my dreams. I don’t have any biological children, but I do have students and several of them can’t eat our school’s lunches. So every night I make us lunches and I pack little baggies of snacks for us. Their homework is all over my kitchen table–some of it graded, some of it will be soon. My homework is in there, too.
Some nights I get overwhelmed or sad or pissed about some current unfairness (like that one of my girls can’t eat school lunches because her mother refuses to fill out the appropriate paperwork for her to eat for free or that this same young lady saves the apple sauce I give her so she can take it home to feed her son) but then I find a note or receive an email from one of them and somehow the straits are not so dire anymore.
I’ve always called my students my kids. Sometimes they call me “mom.” What used to be a nightmarish premonition has become my life, and I actually like it.