It was the winter I was sick that Grandma taught me to dream. Before that, I thought dreaming was something you only did when you slept. Grandma showed me a wake-up dream is the best kind of all.
I was pretty sad that winter. Too sick for school. Too sick to play. Just day after day lying in bed. I got to know the view out my bedroom window very well. Luckily, we lived in the country so it was trees and sky I saw, not buildings and streets. But still, I got tired of it. In winter especially.
Everything was black and white and grey. Black trees. White snow. Grey skies. I guess I was black and white and grey too. Black hair. White sheets and comforter. Grey skin from my sickness. I really missed color.
That's when Grandma came to visit.
Now, my grandmother has always been kind of different. Some of my friends call her weird. I guess she is, if weird means being yourself. Many years ago Grandma stopped cutting her hair. So now there's a long white braid hanging down her back. She always wears big, colorful dresses and skirts from places like India, Guatemala or Africa. And ever since I was little, she's walked with a cane. Not just any old cane, mind you, but a rainbow-colored one she collages herself. Yes, Grandma is definitely her own person.
I guess the thing I like best about her is she never talks down to me. You know, the way a lot of grown-ups do. As if kids are some other species they have to find a new language to talk to. Grandma just talks to me like I'm a friend. Person to person. We understand each other.
It was early April when she came to visit. I'd expected spring a long time before, but winter was really hanging on. Snow still covered the ground and there was no color anywhere. Especially not in me.
The minute Grandma walked into the house she let out a whistle so I'd know she was there. She wears this Tibetan prayer whistle around her neck that always makes me giggle. Grandma brought spring into my room that day with her colorful clothes and cane, sparkling eyes and smile.
First thing she said was "So, what's your dream?" Not "How are you?" or "What can I do for you?" Just "What's your dream?"
It was so unexpected, I didn't have time to think. I heard myself say, "I want color!"
Instead of asking me what I meant like most people would, Grandma said, "So, let's find color."
She closed her eyes. All I could hear was her breath going in and out. Her eyes slowly opened and she looked out the window for a long time. It made me look out there too, even though I thought I knew that view by heart. This time my eyes seemed to play a trick on me. Instead of just seeing bare trees against a grey sky, I suddenly saw the outline of a duck's head in the curve of two branches. Every time I closed my eyes and opened them again, there it was, sort of like a line drawing in a coloring book. A duck's head, for sure. Large and clear.
Grandma whispered, "What do you see?"
"A duck", I replied.
"Is it in color?", she asked.
"No", I said.
"So, color it in!"
I closed my eyes, and began to see purple, green and blue filling in black branch outlines with the brilliant hues of a male duck.
Then I heard Grandma's voice softly say, "Whatever you see will come to be."
I opened my eyes and there it was. The duck's head in the tree, shining with color just as I'd dreamed it to be. Grandma must have seen it too because she was grinning.
"Are you going to stop there?", she asked.
Across our lawn by the creek I spied the shape of a butterfly in the willow's branches. Closing my eyes, I saw orange, black and gold. As before, I opened my eyes to see color exactly as I had dreamed it to be. I looked at Grandma.
"Oh yes", she said, "whatever you see will come to be."
The rest of that day I dreamed colorful creatures into the trees and bushes out my window. A tiger here. A giraffe there. Ladybug here. Rattlesnake there. Cows and kittens. Fish and frogs. Parrots, peacocks and even hogs.
Grandma encouraged me to repeat out loud each time, "Whatever I see will come to be."
And it did.
By late afternoon the view out my window was pure and total magic. I leaned back on my pillow, dazzled. Animals everywhere. Large and small. Unusual and familiar. All painted in vibrant hues.
The room was getting dark so Grandma turned on my bedside lamp. The window became like a mirror and instead of looking out, I saw myself reflected in the glass. Still black and white and grey. My eyes filled with tears. I was the only thing that had not turned to color.
Grandma gently said, "Close your eyes and listen very carefully."
At first I only heard the sound of soft breezes stirring the trees. But soon my ears started picking up strange snorts and growls. Then buzzing and bellows. Meows and moos. Ribbets and rattles. Chirps and grunts. All seeming to come from outside my window.
It went on and on until finally I felt Grandma take my hand, squeeze it and say, "Now open your eyes and see what you have come to be."
My hair like rainbow ribbons. Sheets and comforter covered with silver stars and moon on a deep blue sky. My face a meadow of sunlit flowers.
And the creatures' voices still echoing on the winds, "Whatever we see will come to be."
And it did.
©1998 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.
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