I had a dream the other night that’s taken me a few days to process.
Where I picked up on the dream, I was lying on a red & black flannel blanket at what looked like the old Cottonwoid Park in Grand Prairie. People were feeding the ducks, kicking soccer balls, being grossed out by the nutria… the usual park activity, and I was just observing, soaking up the sun. I laid back and closed my eyes.
Suddenly, an all-too-familiar twang made me sit straight up.
“Haayyy, what’s yer name?”
That voice! That voice has come from home videos and made me cringe on multiple occasions. I knew that voice before I saw it’s source.
I leaned up on an elbow and turned toward that voice and was face-to-face with myself.
It was this version, this mini Heather, circa 1989-90, staring at me with that anticipatory excitement I once embodied. She had the bow, a big smile, my (our?) favorite pair of jeans from those years, a sweaty glow — the whole nine.
She looked back at me closely, squinting, and referred me back to her question:
“Heather. What’s your name?”
“My name’s Heather, too! Come on.”
Little H ushered me to my feet, grabbed my wrist, and we were away!
At this point, I stopped watching the dream and was immersed in it – instead of knowing I was being led through the trees, I was simply there, with my younger self, as if it were real life.
I let her take the lead. She marched through the trees, talking at a pace that would impress John Moschitta.
After a bit, I lost myself in the day — cool shade broken by warm patches of light that snuck through the limbs above, calm solitude underscored by the hum of birds and bugs and breeze — until I felt her gaze. Looking over, Little H was watching me with a big smile on her face.
“I like you.”
I was touched. “I like you, too.”
“I like your hair. You look free. My hair is always pulled so tight, and it hurts my head.”
“I can fix it for you.”
She looked ecstatic at my suggestion, and I remembered those tight ponytails, the restriction, and how badly I always wanted to feel beautiful and natural.
We stopped at a stream, and I took all the rubber bands and hair ties out of Little H’s hair. I scooped water onto her hair and combed through it, twisting random pieces into ringlets. I felt her spirit lift as she loosened up and shook her mane.
She smiled and everything brightened; the light from her face made our shady spot glow, and everything was more beautiful around us. Joy overwhelmed me.
She took my hand, and we continued.
We came to break in the trees, and a small valley opened before us. Above the treeline, a majestic tree towered above its forest mates. And I knew exactly where we were headed.
Almost on cue, Little H piped up, “I want to be up there,” and I followed her gaze to the highest branches on the massive tree. Nothing like a good challenge.
We walked through the valley toward the tree, and I had so much fun, singing songs and being free, as the little fireball and I cycloned toward our destination.
Once we reached the base of the tree, I boosted Little H onto a limb, then hoisted myself up. Crouching on a limb, she looked in wonderment to the top.
“Did you know I’m not afraid of anything?”
I knew this, and, watching her bright eyes taking in ad much as they could, almost started to cry thinking about how much her claim would be tested… how much we’d be tested… how much we’ve been tested.
“I kind of guessed. You seem pretty brave.”
She seemed satisfied with my confidence in her and started to climb. Something inside me screamed to tell her not to always be so tough, that it’s ok to be scared or to need help, but words are just words.
Then, I stepped back and wondered why I felt compelled to bring her down to earth… Why was it necessary to remind her that life is hard, or to even introduce the idea of needing help? Why couldn’t she, why can’t I, approach everything with gusto, with fearlessness, with the expectation to conquer?!
Suddenly, Little H’s foot slipped. I lunged for her, losing my own hold in the prices, but she was just out of reach. However, the foliage was dense and we didn’t tumble; she had grabbed onto everything possible and was regaining her bearings while I unhooked my knee from the fork it had snagged.
We looked at each other, friend for the time being, eyes wide. Then we started laughing, the nervous “That could have gone badly” sort of laughter that petered out once our adrenaline subsided.
“That was close. Let’s keep going.”
She wasn’t concerned with anything other than her goal. She didn’t entertain the “what if” or do anything less than her best. She explored, she advanced, she… went for it. Wait… I’m that girl.
It’s been awhile since I’ve climbed a tree in real life, but this dream tree was easy– we climbed and climbed, finding all the right branches at all the right times, and moved higher and higher in defiance of gravity.
As we neared the breakpoint, about to emerge from the shadows of the neighboring trees, I realized my intense excitement! There we were, after such a journey, on the brink of completing our task.
Little H was equally excited — she paused, hand gripping a branch, ready to ascend. She grinned, “Let’s go!”
We started to climb with reckless abandon. I lost myself in the process and, before I knew it, I broke from the shadows and sunlight drowned out everything, all sight and sound.
I surrendered, let the sun embrace me, filled my lungs and entire body with that moment. Opening my eyes, I turned to look for Little H…
…but she had vanished.
And that’s when I woke up.