By Elaine Rosenberg Miller
“Dreams tell the future.”
The children looked at her blankly.
“You know, Miriam and Aaron could only receive messages from God through dreams. Moshe spoke to him directly. Face to face.”
She sat up straight.
“Did you know how the Delphi oracle received messages? You took Greek mythology, Jessica, you know.”
“Right! They inhaled vapors and went into a trance.”
The younger girl stared at the window.
“I had a dream that bothered me for years.”
They both turned to look at her.
“I killed my father.”
Their eyes widened.
“I did. I didn’t realize it at the time. Dreams represent the unconscious. You can’t control them. I was angry at my father and I killed him.”
“You know what Westerns are?”
“When I was growing up, Westerns were very popular on television and in the movies. They represented an American ideal of democracy. Did you know that the Western states were the first to give the women the right to vote? And they refused to endorse slavery. The eastern cities were very crowded. The idea was buried deep in the American conscious that if things just got too bad, you could just pick up and move. Then one day, when the railroad was completed across the continental United States, the frontier was no more and there was a great letdown in the national psyche.
They remained silent.
“I loved this television program about a wagon train. Each week they showed stories of people traveling West on these things called Conestoga wagons. They were led by this figure, this actor. He was so patriarchal. He represented fairness. He made reasoned decisions. He was so unlike my father who was arbitrary and judgmental. I loved my father, though. He was very self-sacrificing.”
The older girl watched her steadily.
“In my dream, my father was pounding a stake into the ground. I must have been seven or eight at the time. He was going to fasten the guy lines to secure the tent. We were going to spend the night in a canvas tent. And he hit it. Hard. And he kept on going into a large hole in the ground and I shouted ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ I woke up crying. I was afraid to go to sleep for years. I was afraid that I would have that dream.”
She sipped her tea.
“I realized that I had killed him because I was mad at him. Because he had been unfair.”
“I wish…” the first girl spoke.
“I wish that I had had a father so that I could give him a Father’s Day gift.”
The three of them sat, each consumed with her own thoughts.
“I understand,” her mother said.
“Yesterday was Father’s Day.”
“Why didn’t you mention it?” the younger girl asked.
“Your father was one of the handsomest men I have ever seen. Men and women used to snap their necks around just to look at him.”
“You’ve said that before,” the elder girl said.
Her mother smiled, warmed by the memory.
“That’s all I wanted to say,” her daughter commented.
“I wanted to ride a wagon west. I wanted to be a Jewish member of the wagon train. It would have been hard to keep kosher. But we would have managed. The wagon train was welcoming. They accepted everyone.“
“Imagine. I had a real crush on that actor.”
“What kind of crush?”
“Not that kind. Just one of admiration.”
“I would have made him a card,” the younger girl said, “if we knew where to send it.”
“He has an address.”
They stared at her.
“How do we know whether or not he’s dead?” she continued.
“He’s not dead.”
“Do you think someone would have told you?”
“I think so.”
“He might as well be dead. He left me.”
They sat in silence.
“I think that it’s stopped raining.”
“Let’s go shopping! It’s senior day and I get a ten percent discount. They had better say ‘No, it’s impossible. You look too young.’”
“I need camp clothes.”
“I want to get some new jeans.”
“I wonder if I would have worn pants on the wagon train. I’d hate to have had to drag around in those long skirts. And those bonnets were hideous! Did you see that book that I have about tribes of the West? It’s right next to the genealogy book tracing some of our ancestors back to 1757. The son of the progenitor had twelve children. I know one thing. I would have been very self sufficient.”
“Could you fish?”
“I’m sure. And that bow and arrow thing. I won ribbons in archery at summer camp.”
“We could have made it together,” the younger girl said.
“Yes. We could have.”
She walked over to her daughters, lifted up their faces and gave each one an embrace.
from the Februrary 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine