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I don’t recall my dreams often any more and that’s a grace considering the depth of horror most of them entail, encapsulating my real life horrors so that even sleep doesn’t provide a moment’s respite.

This dream was different, though.  I’m grateful for it and yet it leaves me trying to analyze what most likely was just a dream.

In this dream, my neighbor, Juanita, was visiting.  We were chatting in front of my big built-in bookshelves when she accidentally knocked something over and most of the books on the shelves fell behind the case.   I was dismayed and assumed they’d be lost back there forever with no way of retrieving them and putting them back in their rightful position on the shelves.

I tried to move the built-in shelves out to see if it was even possible and surprisingly, it moved easily!  Effortlessly, I pulled it out far enough to squeeze behind.  My first thought was, oh my, I’d better vacuum back here before I slide it back.  It’s a dusty mess back here!

The strong odor of sawdust and that distinctive scent of  fresh new remodeling hit fast and heavy.  That wasn’t dust!  It was remnants from remodeling or building the bookcase that had not been swept up.  Fresh and crisp, preserved in time back there as if the bookcase had been built just earlier this very day. My dad did not install the bookcase, it was here when he bought this 1896 house so I can’t possibly know when that mess was made and left behind.

But I am taken aback in my dream with the surprising joy of this unexpected olfactory treasure.  In my dream, as I stand there behind this built-in bookcase, I’m flashing back in time.  It’s summer of 1988 and my dad and I are touring this house for the first time…me, giddy with adoration at the historical element as well as the little secret idiosyncratic treasures massive ancient homes often display. I’m looking at my dad, gushing about that beautiful library! Then, I’m coming home to construction guys working in our house, the smell of fresh, clean paint, and my dad in the kitchen hollering out as I toss my book bag on the dining room table, I made some supper, baby! How do you like that color in the living room? 

I’m transferred back to 1988 when my dad was alive and well, my whole life was before me, and I still believed in love and that children would never betray a momma who loves and cherishes them; transported to an innocent time when my dad could protect me from everything and I knew I’d marry a wonderful man who loved me and be the best momma ever someday.

In my dream, I breathed in that smell so deeply over and over… and resolved to never vacuum or sweep back there, just so I could pull out the shelves once in awhile and visit this pristinely fragranced land of nostalgia.

I woke up confused.  I’ve never smelled a nonexistent smell in a dream before.  There’s no remodeling going on here today and that was a million years ago; there’s no sawdust in this house.  And this was so distinct and strong a smell which came from such a random, trifle of a dream.

I googled “smells in dreams” and it turns out the research is limited, but it’s not a very common occurrence. I did find an analysis of the sawdust though:  to see sawdust in a dream suggests that you need to clear up an emotional wound that has recently opened.

What an astute analysis for- of all things- sawdust!  Yet, I have no recently opened wounds.  Just  the same ones I’ve carried for six years now that refuse to heal at all.

I can’t imagine it says much for my sad, empty, meaningless existence that even in my dreams- a place where my fantasies could run rampant and I could be drenched in the joy and happiness of my children again, my dad could still be alive and laughing that infectious larger-than-life belly laugh and I could be living life as I once did, that even in that realm of limitless fantastic world of impossibility,  my greatest imaginable joy is reflecting on the nostalgia of a time before I ever imagined this could ( much less would) be how my life turned out, rather than dare to dream of some new wondrously alive or happy occurrence.

The only remote possibility of feeling joy, even in my dreams, has become the same nostalgia I feel in my waking hours.  My vast imagination is even limited now to believing the only joy possible is revisiting times before I could have imagined the things done to me since were even possible, much less inevitable.

A time when I truly believed a boyfriend slamming my face repeatedly into a glass door or a mother’s inescapable incessant cruelty was the worst my life would ever be…

I long for those days now.

I can’t quite put my finger on what that all means, but it strikes me at my core to realize  how nonexistent any hope for happiness or belief that it even exists for me at all has become.

It was delightful to just dream of having the sweet nostalgia of sawdust scented innocence and faith.