Before I share the content, I should add: this was a beautiful dream. In it, I felt loved and at peace.
I am a child. I live in a comfortable military compound, where I also go to school. My biological father, the man in charge, is Hitler.
One day, a man wearing a green Italian army uniform visits. Adults call him the “ordnance specialist.” He carries a finjan – a turkish coffee pot – filled with balls of gunpowder. He buries it in the dirt just outside our house. Even I understand this is the beginning of the end; soon the pot will explode, blowing us up.
My father calls me inside and gives me a tender kiss. He opens a box with two silver bracelets. One, decorated with a pink bow, has my name on it; the other, decorated with a blue bow, has my little brother’s name. My father gives me the bracelet, and sends me off to America to be adopted by the parents known to my waking self as my real parents.
But it was a bizarre dream, a questionable, question-filled dream. I was ashamed of my imagination. How could the archetype of evil appear as my father? And how could this feel good?
Without help, I could not even approach the dream.
My therapist saw a BIG dream.
The symbols, she said, have a personal dimension. Challenges of the last four years have ended; I am making a fresh start. Yes, I worried that no life tasks would remain after raising my children and burying my parents — but I was wrong. The name bracelets hint at maternity hospital souvenirs, pink for the baby girl and blue for the baby boy. They speak of rebirth. My rebirth.
The symbols also carry cultural meaning. Most Jews, my therapist acknowledges, are haunted by the holocaust. Many literally found a new life in North America. My therapist herself was raised Christian, though her maternal grandmother was Jewish.
My therapist does not read Jewish news. She does not follow our educational discussions about teaching joy instead of sombre memory. Nor our political debates about whether American Jews act from power or powerlessness. Nor our psychological debates about how Israelis have internalized the holocaust. She forgot that today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Still, she is right-on. We Jews seem to have a double legacy, just as, in the dream, I have both biological and adoptive parents. As Jews, we know both suffering and joy, victimization and social power, anxiety and community, fragmentation and unity, anger and love. But a positive future waits; we have only to adopt it. Or so the dream urges.
The symbols also have spiritual meaning. In waking life, Hitler is a demonic figure. In my dream, he is a divine figure: a father, filled with love, who has a truly wonderful plan for me. He does not represent himself, but all terrible things, somehow transformed into healing gestures. Sometimes, said my therapist, we seek God at the edge between the terrible and the wonderful. Sometimes, at that edge, healing comes. Not a healing that washes away the pain, but one that finds a way to live with, through, and past it.
Maybe, she said, wisdom lies at the transformative edge between the terrible and the wonderful. As a third thing, neither demonic nor benevolent. Beyond the oppositions our minds so easily create.
And maybe — I add — this is my own version of Zechariah’s dream, where soldier horses declare peace. Taken literally, my dream is as impossible as his. So impossible, I don’t even want to dream it. But my imagination has a life of its own. And a girl does dream, whether she wants to or not.
Images: Nevit Dilman, wikimedia commons, Laura Duhan Kaplan, timberwolfhq.com