My dreams have changed. I think this happens to everyone, especially when contemplating our childhood wishes.
One scene in Disney’s movie The Kid provides a perfect example of this phenomenon. Jean Smart delivers a poignant moment as her character, anchorwoman Deidre LeFevre, counsels Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis) saying, “I mean how many of us turn out the way we think we will when we’re kids; really. I mean how many of us grow up to be astronauts or prima ballerinas. We just all do the best we can.”
Lately, I have dedicated much thought to this idea. Digging into how my own childhood dreams have changed gives rise to a simple question. “What were my dreams?”
As a kid, efforts to fend off the boredom that accompanied sick days inevitably landed me in front of the tube. With the choice between either soaps or game shows, I naturally gravitated towards The Price is Right, The $100,000 Pyramid, or Let’s Make a Deal to kill time between doses of Vicks Formula 44 and Bayer Aspirin. My cough-induced delirium combined with imagining my friends plodding through math problems no doubt contributed to my fascination with gobs of cash, cool prizes and tropical, pristine places.
The whole reason I dreamed of vacationing in Hawaii was because Bob Barker made the place seem exotic and exciting—or the announcer did anyway. And when the contestants won that trip, Holy Moses! Bob’s only hope was that the winner was not one of the Samoan women contestants who frequented the show.
On more than one occasion, one such contestant would get so excited she’d pick him up and run around the stage jumping up and down as Bob attempted to keep his hair from flying askew and his dignity intact. And the audience went wild! For me, a kid who lived atop a blustery hill subject to drifting winter snows—the excitement translated easily to clear blue water, black sand beaches and palm trees.
The game shows were only the half of it. Friday nights, like most of my contemporaries, found our family huddled around the television to watch The Brady Bunch. When the Brady’s took a family vacation, where did they go? Yup, you remember: Hawaii. In fact, the tropical paradise held enough intrigue to warrant three whole episodes just to tell that story.
Then of course, there was Alice, the maid and housekeeper. How did Mr. Brady afford to feed six children, a couple of pets, keep a nice home in the suburbs complete with a home office, and pay a maid all without the benefit of an income from Mrs. Brady ? Architects, I deduced, earned big bucks.
Did this mean that my dreams were a product of television? Was Hollywood dictating the things that should impress me? Maybe. But somewhere along the line, I stopped being interested in visiting Hawaii, or having a live-in housekeeper to do my bidding. It dropped way down there on the list behind a host of other more intriguing destinations, behind local curiosities, beneath family time.
I came to a realization.
Despite the most painstaking plans, our lives become rapt in our culture, our experiences and with the people whom we befriend. Woven together like fabric it naturally contains flaws. Pinholes appear from acidic energies, haphazard like moth-eaten wool. Occasionally, giant fissures open with only the gentlest tug on a single thread.
These imperfections can cause intense despair, but (often simultaneously) they reveal a previously unnoticed path. And we have changed, or the world has changed around us and with it our dreams. Yours and mine.