It’s four AM on Monday morning, but it’s not the storm outside that wakes me. Rather, I’ve been pulled from sleep because the end of a dream came at the same time as my smallest dog, a twelve-year-old chihuahua, is informing me that he needs to go out.
My husband deals with the dog.
I try to make sense of the dream.
It involved a wedding – not mine – and a white tennis dress that an older woman asked me to wear. Roses were a frequent image, and pearls, and items of clothing that were offered in pink paper-wrapped boxes. Oh, and I was twenty. (In my waking life, I haven’t been twenty in over a decade.)
At one point, I saw the name Margaret, and I realized that some of the clothing being gifted to me had been meant for her, for this mysterious girl who never appeared. I think she was the deceased daughter of the old woman, a woman who felt like family, but whom I couldn’t identify.
As dreams go, it’s not scary or stressful, but it sticks with me, and I wonder where it came from.
I pick up the phone and leave a message for a friend asking her to ask me about the images from the dream. My husband returns with the dog. I go back to sleep and have a deliciously smutty dream about characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation (don’t judge), but the other images linger into the next day, and stay with me all week.
It’s when I enter the kitchen two days later that a connection is finally made. Dishes. Dishes sparked this dream.
On the previous Friday, I’d received a box of old china from one of my cousins in California. Back in May, her mother had asked if I wanted the remaining pieces from my great-great uncle’s set of dishes, which were likely owned by his mother in the first place. She was asking because her daughter inherited her grandmother’s dishes, and I’m one of the only cousins in my generation who knew this uncle. “My generation,” she said, “is downsizing. So, I’m offering these things to yours.”
I move into the kitchen and pick up one of the platters. It’s worn with age and manages to be both sturdy and delicate at once. Nothing dramatic happens. I’m not zapped back into my dreamscape. No ethereal beings appear in my house to tell me their story.
And yet, I feel a sense of history and connection.
I don’t believe in ghosts in the traditional sense. I don’t believe there are actual spirits trying to speak with us or attempting to resolve unfinished business. I know there’s nothing supernatural about Ouija boards: the planchette moves because of something called the ideomotor effect – unconscious, involuntary actions in response to prior suggestions, expectations, and preconceptions.
But I do believe that objects and places retain the essences of people who owned or inhabit them. Houses take on the tones of those who dwelt within. And maybe dishes retain something of the people who chose them, and loved them, and passed them down to their children’s children.
My dream remains with me, still, a week later, and I’m no closer to picking it apart than I was when I first woke up, but I now know that the china I received is from an English company called Johnson Bros, and is likely one of the first patterns they sold.
Perhaps this china is connected to the nocturnal imagery created within my mind. Perhaps my dream is merely a combination of receiving the china and watching the Stephen King miniseries Rose Red. Perhaps it’s just my vivid imagination at work, providing me with story-fodder for my annual Horror Dailies writing project.
If there is, or was, an actual Margaret, I wish her well.
And if there isn’t… may whatever story I eventually write honor the memory of her fictional self.
About the author: Melissa A. Bartell
Melissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, listen to her podcast, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.