restoration of a dream

The main thing … my grandmother! Was in the dream. I never really knew her, she was no more to me than a small brown woman huddled in a big chair. It was Alzheimer's or similar, my father told me later. They looked alike, Dad and his mother, and were certainly close. I haven’t dreamed about her before.

It was a long and confused ramble but at the heart of it were three old wooden houses in Burns Street, Ohakune, where I mostly grew up. In the dream was a photograph of these three houses as they looked in their glory days, but now ours was ramshackle, falling down. It did not look like the actual house we lived in which, much changed, is still there—like the two others, it was smaller, one of those four room railway cottages that stand up at the Junction.

I had used my inheritance (from my mother but, ultimately, from both my parents) to buy back the ancestral home. I was still with my former partner and the incipient chaos and unhappiness we lived in and with for the last few years we were together was the atmos of the dream. Friends of ours, happy friends with happy families, lived nearby. They were restoring their houses.

Some kind of party was going on, there was lots of coming and going. I was, as I used to do, trying to conceal our unhappiness—futile of course but there you are.

Won’t go into all the events that happened, they were too many and would require too much explanation to relate sensibly, though I understand most of them. But, in the midst of all this, inside the (dream) house, just beside the bathroom door, was it? Or the pantry? I met my grandmother.

Her birth name was Ada Trevarthen. A Cornish woman, the family came from Truro. A piano teacher who gave up music when she married my (Australian) grandfather. She was bigger than I remember her in life, a larger presence, but still recognisable. She said to me that the decline of the house had begun with my father, that the tumbledown dereliction of it all started with him, he was unable to preserve or maintain it as it should and could have been maintained. This was said without judgement or criticism, sadly if anything—the sadness of fact. The implication was that my attempt to restore what he had let go was doomed from the start.

There something ungainsayable about her that was both reassuring and confronting. Wisdom I guess, perhaps the wisdom of the dead. She said what she had to say and passed out of the dream.

Later, my ex and I were in bed together, beginning to make love, when revellers in trissy masks burst into the bedroom where we were, insisting we join in the fun. Tried to make them leave, shut the door and go, but they would not. It was an exact recall, without the interlopers, of the last time we did try to make love.

There was more … after Gran, as we called her, and the unhappiness, the strongest trace of the dream is the actual physical place it was set. As the phantasmagoria faded I remember thinking that tomorrow, that is, today, I would go down through the back garden to the river, wade across and walk along the further bank, which I don’t believe I ever actually have done. Wild land then and perhaps still wild; there were herds of brumbies though they will have gone now.

The intense joyful anticipation of that walk was replaced by regret when I woke … but, as always, I feel redeemed by the grace of a visit to a place where I was always happy. More than that, more than anything else, I have a sense of wonder, indeed elation, that that connection back to Gran, howsoever it may be, is, unlike the house itself, restored.

[We moved away from Ohakune in 1962 and the house was put on the market; it sold a few years later. I lamented it for many years & later did look into buying another house there - as impractical as that was. What Gran is saying (if it is not just me talking to myself) is not that Dad wrecked the family but that decisions taken then can't be rescinded now. That the garden of forking paths is a dream garden perhaps. Though no less real for that. Perhaps.]

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