I was an imaginative little boy. I still have many vivid memories of my childhood. I used to have an imaginary friend who went everywhere with me. His name was Gimme and I would often talk to him out loud. But unbeknownst to most, Gimme had a friend who was often with him. I didn’t talk to Gimme’s friend, but his name was Corn Oil. Gimme and Corn Oil gave me a lot of comfort.

I also had a lot of dreams. I don’t remember many of my dreams, but I remember a few that were particularly frightening to me. The nightmare that was the scariest involved aliens in spaceships landing on earth. The spaceships were disguised as cereal boxes. The aliens looked like the toys that you would discover in the cereal box. During the day, people just thought they were cereal boxes with toys, but at night, the toys would come to life and murder people. I don’t know how the toys, that were the size of humans, could pass for tiny toys in normal cereal boxes during the day but they did. As toys, they were plastic (like the green soldiers) and looked like mass murderers. Each had his own weapon. The two I remember were the toy with the knife and the toy with the scythe. I knew that they came to life and murdered people at night, but no one believed me when I told them. This was my worst childhood nightmare that I still recall.

In first grade, we went on a field trip to The Museum of Science and Industry. There, we ate disappointing bagged lunches in a huge room and then assembled in a secret classroom containing “Cleo, the glass lady.” While we watched, Cleo “came to life.” She would make weird whirring sounds and jerkily rotate while a disembodied and very soothing woman’s voice would talk to us. The voice was clearly human and warm sounding, in contrast to the poorly animated robot before us. The voice would say things like, “This is my circulatory system” and suddenly the veins and arteries and heart would light up while Cleo clumsily rotated to give 360-degree views to the audience of horrified children. Then we would see the digestive system illuminated. Ending the program, as a finale, all the internal body parts would light at the same time as she mesmerized me with her hypnotic voice and frightened me with her mechanical noises and unnatural rotations. That night, in my dreams, I would be walking down the street and suddenly various women passing me would have inner organs light up. Even though this was clearly not possible, kind of funny, and obviously not true, I still woke up sweating in fear. The source of the nightmare was obvious, and my rational brain got it, but my emotional little self was terrified.

Because my mother was sick for a period of time, I often spent the night at my grandparents’ house. Other than their bedroom, the bedrooms had twin beds. My great grandmother’s beds were super soft for some reason. That was the room I liked because it had a small black and white television, and I watched a lot of television as a kid. I especially enjoyed Bewitched, That Girl, and I Dream of Jeannie. I would draw women with flip hairdos like Ann Marie and Samantha and Laura Petrie. To me, that was the ultimate in glamour and beauty. When I slept away from home, I tried to never show any fear or sadness. I didn’t want to cause any stress on any of my adult relatives. I would try to suck up any feelings of panic and just keep it to myself. One night at my grandparent’s house, I had the scariest nightmare of all. This dream was in black and white and it involved a cobbler and a spider who descended on a silk thread. I don’t know what was so scary. Objectively, nothing at all was unusual beside the fact that there was a shoemaker, yet I was terrified. I was panicking so badly that my brain came to my rescue and, at the end of the dream, or maybe in the middle of the dream when I was getting beyond my ability to stay quiet, a series of test patterns and boxes with numbers appeared and then I saw the images one would see at the end of a film and heard the sound of the film flapping like it was time to change reels for the next part of the movie. My brain, it its brilliant way, showed me that this story wasn’t real and quelled my fears. It was all just a story.

Each of these dreams woke me up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t talk to anyone about them. Everyone else was asleep. I have no idea how to interpret these dreams, but they had enough impact that I remember them more than 50 years later. It is now 3 am and I woke up thinking about these memories and couldn’t go back to sleep. I am writing them down in hopes that they will leave my brain now that they are on paper and I will be able to sleep peacefully for the rest of the night.

It may be fun to interpret dreams, but I don’t believe anyone knows what dreams really represent. I’m told that it doesn’t matter what happens in a dream, but it matters how the dreams make one feel. I think the important lesson is that brains are weird. In my experience, If I don’t take care of my emotional needs consciously, my mind sorts them out in my sleep. One way or another, my body processes the traumas and thoughts and feelings that I wish to quell. However, suppressing them forces them to leak out, sometimes in my sleep. One way or another, my brain is going to force me to address those sad, awful, and uncomfortable things I wish I could just ignore and forget. I associate ignoring these things that I would rather not address, or have no good way to address, as being strong and kind. Stoicism is often overrated. Strength is not only shown through silence. I am going to confront my fears and trauma eventually. I have no choice. Consciously or unconsciously.

I'm a midwesterner who is living this phase of his life in the arts.