I remember sitting on my grandma’s big fluffy bed, watching her write in a faded, worn out notebook; squenched, tiny faded lips and her eyes shut tight, remembering a dream she had dreamed the night before.
“What are you doing, Grandma?”
“Quiet child! I’m going back to the dream world for just a few minutes. Interpreting my dream, see?”
Sitting as quietly as any kid could, breathlessly anticipating the moment she would open her eyes and smile heavenward, “Ahhh. I understand. Thank you.” A few moments more of furtive scribbling and then we would begin our day together.
At the time, the little ritual felt sacred. I could not ask her about her private dreams, or how she knew how to interpret them, but my curiosity for such matter was overwhelming at times. As the years passed and I grew a little older, I also became bolder if not wiser.
“Grandma, I had a dream last night,” I tossed out, ever so matter-of-factly one day. The lift in her little wrinkled eyes told me even then that she was on to me, but she indulged my cleverness.
“You did? Tell me all about it. I interpret dreams, you know,” she smiled, knowing full well I already knew this. I would tell her my dream with all the drama and gusto I could muster, and she quickly broke it down.
“It doesn’t matter who you dream about,” she began. “You are always everyone in your dream. Whatever you think of whatever person you see or meet in your dream, are facets of you.”
On average, Grandma used to have four or five dreams every night that she could remember. She called some of them “brain flatulence”, some she called “premonition dreams,” but her favorites were called the “knowing yourself dreams.”
“Usually my dreams are ‘knowing yourself dreams’,” she recalled.
Grandma never let me in on her secret of interpreting dreams until the time I bought her a book I believed that she would enjoy. I don’t know what I was thinking.
Grandma cooed over the purple tulip wrapping paper containing the dream interpretation book, and I felt rather pleased with myself that I had chosen a gift for Grandma that no one else had; of course, I did have a reason for choosing the gift. It was all in my plan, see?
When Grandma tore away the last remnants of the wrapping, her small blue eyes, not entirely unexpectedly, transformed instantly into large black saucers.
“What is this?” she demanded.
When the title of the book registered, her eyes narrowed and her gaze resembled bullets aimed at, well… you can imagine. The room seemed to shrink as Grandma stared at me in icy silence.
“I thought you would like it, Grandma. I thought you would like to read what other people thought about dream interpretation,” I innocently manipulated.
“Why would I want to do that, dear? I know what I’m doing and I learned from a master: my own grandma.” She handed the book to me, indignant. “Bethie, I don’t need this.” Then, her tone softening suddenly, I knew my plan had worked. “It’s about time that I taught you how to interpret dreams like my grandma did for me.”
I discarded the ‘offending’ book and eagerly pulled up a chair.
Grandma called her methods the old fashioned way.
“Sometimes the old way is the best way,” she said. “When you dream about an animal, for instance, think about what that animal means to you. If you dream of a snake and you are afraid of snakes, then you are afraid of something. If you dream about a snake and the snake appears knowledgeable to you, then you are receiving knowledge of some sort. You see?”
Grandma taught me that there are some universal signs in dreams as well, signs that will have the same meaning for many people. “Water,” she said, “is usually your feelings. If you are drowning in a dream, it usually means that you’re overwhelmed.”
“You really have to completely take a dream apart and put each piece in its own category in a notebook.
“First write out your dream, just as you saw it. And if you can, draw an illustration of the dream as well. Once you have it on paper, start with the obvious parts that you already know has a meaning for you.”
Grandma’s example: Let’s say you dream about climbing a tree and there is a cat up in the tree. The cat meows at you and you think it wants down. The tree and cat are on a college university. The cat scratches you and you wake up.
According to Grandma, look first at what you know is currently happening in your life. Is there anything bothering you at work, or are there some questions and have you been wondering what the answers could be? What does the tree or a cat mean to you?
In Grandma’s old world dream interpretation, a tree to me means growth and a cat means secret knowledge. A college would be a place of learning to me. A cat scratching me, even though it seems like a bad thing, really isn’t. The cat (secret knowledge) made contact with me; I am growing from this (tree) and I am learning.
If you want to know more about yourself, interpreting one’s dreams is a good springboard. You’ll soon get the hang of it and you’ll find yourself excited to wake up in the morning, anticipating ― like Grandma did ― writing down your dreams. There are answers in dream interpretation that are only for you.
Grandma showed me that I can learn many things about myself through my dreams. She also taught me that dreams are personal, and are meant only for ourselves. There is the occasional premonition dream in which everything is crystal clear, and can even feel like it is happening in the real world. Dream interpretation is different for everyone, but my family relies on Grandma’s techniques.
One quiet afternoon, years after Grandma had passed on, I stumbled upon the dream interpretation book I had gotten her as part of my ‘plan’. I happened to notice that it looked quite worn, and when I opened it to the first page, she had scrawled some notes about how it would be better to interpret it her way.
She had written comments throughout the entire book, practically on every page, but despite this, it was clear that she had made a kind of peace with the book. It was on the last page she had written: “Dreaming is like art interpretation. One man sees a beautiful countryside in the artwork, while another sees a desolate field; but both of them have the right to their own opinion. Whatever works best for both interpreters is fine with me, but do listen to your Grandma, Bethie.” Spoken in true Grandma Fashion, I smiled, closing the book. As the covers met, I caught a whiff of her perfume as it mixed with the dust particles floating, dreamlike, past the sinking afternoon sun.