T here’s a robber in your closet. You jump out of bed and start running down a dark corridor the robber in hot pursuit. You open a door and suddenly you’re in a wing of your house you never knew existed. Oh the decorating possibilities! One room you can turn into the guest room you desperately need. And wait — a music room complete with the piano you’ve always longed for.
Now you see the back door. You open it but something’s weird. This is not your backyard. You’re in a beautiful meadow. You venture into fields of colorful flowers when you spot a figure approaching in the distance. This can’t be good. You get an awful feeling in your mouth. Yikes your teeth are crumbling! The figure gets larger and — it’s your old high school principal! Uh-oh time to start running again. But something is weighing you down. There’s a cast on your leg! You keep limping along but you trip on a rock and land alongside the edge of a cliff. The casted leg is hanging over the side and it’s pulling you down down…
You wake in a cold sweat one leg hanging over the side of your bed.
What just happened? Did this wild dream hold deep meaning or symbolism? Was it just utter nonsense? Maybe it was a brain reboot running through your various memory banks?
Marcia dreams about…
The Brother I Never Knew
A knock at the door. I open it and before me stands a man seven or eight years older than me. His face looks strangely familiar. He clears his throat and speaks: “I think I might be your long-lost brother…”
The dream always started the same way: He explains that he’d been born during World War II and had spent his entire adult life trying to track down his biological family. After my initial shock I invite him in.
Then his story would take on different variations. Sometimes he’d explain that he’d been raised by nuns. Sometimes it was a childless Polish farm couple. Often it involved a mysterious envelope presented to him upon reaching a certain age revealing his Jewish heritage. Obviously my dreaming mind was drawing from countless Holocaust stories I’d read and heard converting them into my personal drama.
The dream would usually end with the two of us trying to figure out how to break the news to our mother who had — in reality — spent her entire adult life thinking her baby had been killed in Auschwitz before reaching his first birthday. I would offer to play harbinger using the Serach-bas-Asher approach: just like Serach who sang the news to her grandfather Yaakov that his son Yosef was alive I would find a way to make a gentle revelation to our mother.
April 1983. The first American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants. Three days of events in the Washington D.C. area — seminars speeches by survivors and their children meetings with politicians — culminating in a massive gathering at the now-defunct Capital Centre arena.
The highlight would be a speech by President Ronald Reagan accompanied by First Lady Nancy. (For me though the highlight would be the Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington choir performance — including a solo by my fourth-grade son!)
As a local resident I signed up to play an active role in various events. For the Cap Centre evening my job was to help the Secret Service in their security measures — yes even before 9/11 security was tight whenever the President attended a public event. The burly agents taught me how to inspect purses and other bags as more than 20 000 survivors and their families would file through the metal detectors some of them having to undergo agent pat-downs.
Hours before the event despite a cool drizzle people started lining up outside the arena’s glass doors. As the child of a survivor I was familiar with that early-bird-catches-the-worm tendency. I was troubled however because most of these survivors were well into their sixties and beyond (at the time that seemed really old!) and they looked cold and uncomfortable. I tried to convince the Secret Service agents to start letting them in early explaining how standing in lines must be particularly painful to this population evoking grisly standing-in-line memories. But the dispassionate agents would not depart from standard procedure.
Finally the crowd passed through and the program began. I had free rein to roam about the arena and listen to the many heart-wrenching tales being told. Eventually it was the turn of Rav Yisrael Meir Lau then-chief rabbi of Netanya a child survivor of the Holocaust. His opening went something like this:
I have a recurring dream. It always begins with a knock at the door. I open it and before me stands a man. His face looks strangely familiar. He clears his throat and speaks: “I think I might be your long-lost brother…”
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