For me, the concept of the recurring dream has come to come to me in two forms. Of course, the first form that I believe most of us think of is the same dream coming to us twice or more. It is de ja vu, and we know that it is de ja vu as it is unfolding. We generally already know how it is going to turn out. Another form that has happened to me personally is not just the same dream over and over again. I am unaware if this second type of recurring dream has happened to anyone else, but I have experienced a recurring theme. I do not always know what the outcome is going to be, but it generally entails the same “theme” – a particular person, place, or idea. The particular setting that I am interested in is the attic of the house that my parents own to this day – in the house that I spent the majority of my growing up years.
These dreams that I continue to have now, even into my 5th decade, often revolve around either being in the attic, or somehow winding up in there for reasons that make little sense; or maybe it is a reason of last resort. This attic is the full length and width of the house, and has served as a place of culmination of emotions – good, bad and neutral.
We moved into the big, brick house in January of 1970. The move to me was very traumatic for me for reasons I did not know of even then. The only other home I remembered before the Lenox Road house was a much smaller house in Crestline, Alabama on Montevallo Lane. A fact about Montevallo Lane that I was unaware of for years was that this street and surrounding neighborhood was Crestline’s ‘ghetto’. For those that know the Crestline/Mountain Brook suburb of Birmingham, they know what I am talking about. Those who never lived in the area would call that an oxymoron. Still, though – this was the neighborhood where I met my first friends. The children of our neighborhood would gather in the yard next door to us for juice and cookies, served up by Miss Frances. My yard held a magnolia tree that I’d often attempt to climb. Our yard was the site of several of us neighborhood children digging to China. This was an early indication to my parents that I was incorrigible: my mother was left speechless, not only because I volunteered her spoons out of the kitchen as our digging utensils, but also because I saw fit to destroy my new Easter dress as the required outfit for our digging expedition. (I do not recall having that dress on my body when Easter Sunday finally came.) My father was speechless over the gully that was now the front yard he had worked so hard to make neat and appealing to the eye. My personality began to emerge at this home, and to move away from it seemed to have some kind of stifling effect on me.
When we first went to look at the house on Lenox Road, outside the Mountain Brook City Limits, it was late in 1969. I felt heavily intimidated by the structure. My parents had decided to move out of Mountain Brook – a.k.a the Magic Kingdom per my father. When they found the Redmont Park area, they felt justified. The particular neighborhood is a historic neighborhood, founded and built up by the city’s steel barons amongst others. The home on Lenox that my parents were particularly interested in has brickwork that attracted them both immediately – it was unique; my father declared that he wanted this house based on that alone – even before seeing inside. Built in 1929, the structure was still a fortress, even in 1970. As a 5-year-old, I was intimidated – I felt like I was viewing Hill House, as described by Shirley Jackson as she laid out her story of malaise and horror in her novel, “The Haunting”. I covered my fear of the place by declaring it a ‘disaster area’. Dad stood on the front porch and asked me why I felt that way, as we examined the dirt daubers’ nests. I declared that the brick layer HAD to have been drunk on the job. My mother howled with laughter, as my father proclaimed that to be the longest drunk he had ever heard of.
The truest part of part of my psyche entailed the fact that I did not want to admit to being scared of this place. I was certain he would first laugh at me, then chide me for believing in ghosts and hauntings and the like. Thus, I stuck with my drunk brick layer theory. I criticized the yard, which was in reality much more of a vision than the one on Montevallo Lane. Once we viewed the inside, I did not want him to know that the attic petrified me. Ironically in Dad’s mind, he had already assigned me to the bedroom right next to the doorway that led up the creaky staircase to the stale, musty attic that held God knows what for God knows why. I did not want my family to know I envisioned Frankenstein’s creation as the reason for the creaking that was audible upon opening the doorway.
In spite of my outward disdain, my parents made an offer and bought the house. The Montevallo Lane house was sold shortly after , leaving my first friends and my gully to China unfinished Thus, the stage was set for the recurring theme and dreams.