“Last night I dreamt of Manderley,” begins the novel Rebecca.
Manderley, of course, is Maxim DeWinter’s beautiful and renowned (fictional) house in southern England.
Last night, I indeed dreamed of a house, but it wasn’t one with a name. I come from a long line of southeast Missouri farmers; we don’t name houses.
The house I dreamed of was my grandmother’s, a ramshackle country farmhouse that’s been built onto so many times that going from room to room involves a couple of stairs, steps up, and weird transitions. There are small bedrooms, a living room we never used, and when I was little, I thought her tiny dining room was beautiful with it’s peach curtains and big picture window.
But the house I dreamed of last night wasn’t the house the way I remember it. I remember Grandma Ruby’s house as an exciting place, full of fun. It smelled good because Grandma was usually cooking something, and if she baby-sat you she’d make you popcorn the old-fashioned way on the stovetop. Light generally streamed in the windows. My grandma had plants everywhere and even more pictures and knick knacks.
Last night, though, in my dream, her house was as it is now. The blinds closed against the sun. Empty. A house with dust motes floating in the tiniest shafts of sunlight. A house that smells lonely and musty, a house that hasn’t been lived in for awhile. In my dream, I came in the house from the garage, walked through the den area (the “back porch” as my grandma called it because it once had been), up the two stairs into the laundry area, one step up into the kitchen. I walked through the dining room, alone and feeling desperately so, into the living room and into the three tiny bedrooms. No one was there. I was alone. The house was empty.
But throughout the dream came this feeling, a fear that something bad was going to happen. Not to me, but just to the family in general. In the dream, I knew my grandmother was no longer living, and the sadness permeated everything.
I woke up at 4:52 a.m., 8 minutes before my alarm would go off, worried and sad. And those feelings haven’t been easy to shake.
But that house has always been a happy place for me. A place of good memories, a lot of laughs, and of a vibrant, loving, brave woman I had the privilege to call Grandma. So I’ll remember the way it was when I was a child. Bustling. Full of sunlight. Happy. A place of safety.
A place where I knew I was loved.