When I was little, I used to have nightmares about crocodiles and snakes attacking me, usually whilst submerged underwater in some swampy fetid bog. The snake would squeeze me to death amongst the tangled weeds and the crocodile would snap me clean in half. I’d cry out, as little children are inclined to do but I never felt reassured afterwards. I believed wholeheartedly that croc and his cohorts were hiding out beneath my bed waiting to do me some grievously bodily harm, and a pat on the head didn’t change this.
I didn’t happen to be afraid of either crocodiles or snakes when awake. One summer, I’d had a boa constrictor wrapped around my neck at the Isle of Wight zoo, who I rather liked, long, warm and soft with his dry, silky skin. I also met a tarantula and left the zoo abruptly, but we shall forget about that lest I have more nightmares. Only in my dreams did the terror of being ‘snapped up’ wake me, pressed against my headboard, knees knocking together until one day, quite unexpectedly, I came upon a solution.
Imagine being stuck in a bog. You’re drowning. Water is slugging down your throat and it’s hard to keep your head above the surface. Then you manage, somehow, to get your head up for a few seconds and you scan your surroundings looking desperately for help. And their hovering above the dirty sludge is a large microwave.
It resembled a brown Panasonic NE-691 circa 1060s, large and cumbersome, an unattractive drab brown colour with the odd hint of orange on the control panel. The thing called to me in the way only inanimate things can and against all odds, I managed to swim up to the door. Have you ever been confused in a dream? I hadn’t been until I found myself knocking on the door of a microwave, whilst in a bog, being pursued by murderous reptiles.
The door opened, and I knew intuitively that correct procedure meant I needed to climb inside, except how? On a whim, I thrust my arm into its bare exterior and in an instant, I became Alice. Once tiny and safely hidden inside, the microwave had a little shudder, made strange revving sounds then whisked me away through the bright blue sky.
Hetti is in a microwave and the microwave can fly!
After the oven saved my life, I became quite attached to it, understandably, so attached I began to holler every time I had a bad dream and like something out of The Force, it would appear all drab and brown and silent to save the day.
Nightmares can only happen if you are present during them. It’s a bit like the Susan Jefffers’ book, Feel The Fear But Do It Anyway except you are just away, flying without wings and the slimy snakes and snappy crocs are watching from their own nightmare as your hot oven, which I should add sounds like an electric Flymo, whizzes off to faraway land made up of electrical gadgets and broken dreams or something or other. Never visited, so don’t know.
I had a more prosaic use for my gadget you see. I reasoned if I could call it up in dreams, the same objective could be achieved during my waking hours. Just leave. Everything.
Anxious: Departed before the panic.
Upset: Roll back the tears.
As I got older, I included more scenarios:
An exam: Sick.
Depressed: Let’s take in the view from above and see if I can’t find that tunnel.
Angry: Make me tiny before I lose my head.
But ovens have walls:
Most of my life has been spent away. My mother used to say I was always away with the fairies but really, I was away from myself. Split off. You must show up people in life insist, but you can show up without being there. Present in body. Absent in mind.
A lot of adoptees find it hard not to run. We spend our lives fleeing in the hope we might run into something that could make us feel whole again. We are like blindfolded sprinters, a noise announced our arrival but there are no lines to contain us and now we can’t find a finishing post to begin again.
Love is the same. Love to my puppy is cuddles and a squeaky hot dog. To me it’s an ending before the story began and a teddy bear who may have once been held by my mother. Her fingertips like pale shadows on his smooth cream fur.
I think it’s easier to love than to be loved. You can choose to love and almost decide how much to do so like a cake recipe, spooning out your flour and jam with shiny silver spoons.
I shall be pragmatic like a sponge cake.
Extravagant like a rich chocolate gateau.
Loyal like a muffin.
Flighty like a cup cake.
Someone else loving us is much harder. Why would they? I don’t want to participate in a story we protest. There will be expectations and feelings and wants and needs and I don’t think I can make another human being happy.
And then you think, do they even know who I am?
I’m the girl without a face.
But we do love because for people so terrified of feelings, we have a lot of them to give. We are often loved dearly by others, too but we don’t know or understand this. It’s okay, we don’t have to understand something for it to be undoubtedly true. Things have a shape regardless.
We also have each other as adoptees. A tribe to help us grow, to feel the fear and not walk away. To stay and work the messiness out with others while running on the spot.
But if you must, holler three times for the microwave and I will bring cake. Always!