Photo by Eric Sorensen

by Ali Wilkinson

I dream sometimes of puzzle pieces. Just the shape of them. Untethered, floating. (There must be meaning here?)

I dream about acquaintances from high school. Long, carefully sub-plotted sagas unfolding along near-forgotten landmarks. “What was his name again?” I’ll wonder upon waking, even as his image fades.

I dream of running races, until the route becomes too tangled and I find myself deep in a shopping mall, pennies in a fountain, wondering, where did I go wrong?

But my children—I do not.

They are from me. They eat at me. They consume me.

I think of them when I’m with them. I watch their imperceptibly stretching limbs. I listen to their cadences.

In sneaked breaks, I still think of them. Steam surrounding me in the shower—was that them? Or more often, that was them.

After they go to bed, when I step on broken crayons or google their (imaginary) symptoms, I think of them.

But I never dream of them.

Perhaps their presence is too near, too immediate. There’s no opportunity for them to filter down, sink in, weave their way within and through. They are always right there, my conscious filled with them. The subconscious throws up its hands. Then smiles. “You’ve got this covered,” it says with a wink.

I know I will. I know I will dream of them at exactly these ages. When they are still so dependent on me, when I still anchor their worlds.

“Form your own memories,” my mind wills.

Because they are still right here. They are at that longed-for age, that “it-goes-by-so-fast age.” They are all teeth and tummies and stomping feet. They are all legs and arms, waiting to scramble upon me, envelop me.

“Hold on to this,” it whispers. “Because not so long from now, this will be the stuff of dreams.”