Saturday, July 24, 2010

Only in my dreams...

I know I'm not the only person on Earth who has a recurring nightmare.  Mine started shortly after my eighth birthday and I still dream it to this day.  That's thirty years of the same, exact nightmare, for those of you keeping score at home.  A darn long time to be haunted by the same dream.

Like I said, I'm not the only person on Earth who has a recurring nightmare, but I betcha I'm one of the only people on Earth who has a photograph of it.  You see, on my visit to my childhood home this past week, I was going through old photographs that my parents have in boxes (and boxes, and boxes) in their house.  I was looking for a few, specific pictures out of what must be tens of thousands of photographs, and I wasn't holding my breath that I would find those few for which I searched.  (My father has been an avid photographer for my entire life, photographing just about everything right down to my very first diaper rash.  I kid you not, though that wasn't the picture I was trying to find.  I've inherited his shutterbug tendencies, and as such can rival Dad's collection of pictures already, though the vast majority of mine are digital and therefore just taking up space in the external hard drive, instead of haphazard piles in no particular order stuffed into cardboard boxes.)  I found some of the ones I had hoped to find, along with many others that I set aside for future blog posts and/or blackmail (I've already sworn a solemn vow to one of my sisters that certain photos of her from our childhood will never be posted by me to Facebook...).

The one I didn't intend to find - one I didn't even realize existed at all - was the one that captured the moment of my recurring nightmare.  Here it is:

It doesn't look too nightmarish, I know.  What you're looking at is a photograph of an evening in December, 1979, when my parents took me, along with two friends, into New York City to celebrate my eighth birthday.  We went to Rockefeller Center and saw the Christmas tree.  We saw the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular.  We saw the decorated windows at Macy's and along Fifth Avenue.  We then went to the Trump Tower, which is where the picture above was taken.  I am the girl in the bright orange hat with the pompom almost as big as my head on top.

If you aren't familiar with Trump Tower, the interior is gorgeous.  Here's a shot I found online of the inside:

Coincidentally, it appears to be decorated for Christmas as it was on that night in December 1979.  (There are other shots of the Trump Tower here and here, for those of you who aren't familiar.)

That night, as we went up the series of open escalators, I first felt the gripping fear that would become my biggest phobia - a fear of falling from a great height.  (I do not have a fear of heights, per se, but only one of falling from a height.  I feel perfectly fine on top of the Empire State Building, where falling over the edge accidentally is a virtual impossibility - falling on purpose from the top must take some serious effort, indeed! - but standing on a balcony just one or two stories up and looking over a railing freaks me out.  I do not know if this technically is just acrophobia, or fear of heights, or if it is something separate.)  I was looking down as we climbed the floors and my palms began to sweat, my heart began to pound, my skin became clammy.  I shook it off at the time, but that was the beginning of the end of my previously phobia-free existence.

The nightmare, which I first had that night, is this: I am with my family at the Trump Tower at Christmastime.  In my dream, I am of varying ages; sometimes I am a child, sometimes I am my actual age at the time.  However, in my dream, my youngest sister - who would've been two at the time of the dream's onset - is always an infant, and for whatever reason, my mother has given her to me to hold.  I am holding her, both of us bundled in our winter coats, scarves, mittens, and we're climbing the escalators.  As we rise higher off the main floor, my sister moves suddenly in an attempt (I always think) to see the waterfall that cascades down the one interior wall and I lose my hold on her.  She falls from my arms, plummeting over the side and then I wake up.  She never gets rescued nor does she hit the floor before I am awake, panicked and sweaty, sometimes having screamed aloud.

That was the nightmare I had that first night, back in December '79, and it has been virtually the same since then.  I do not dream it as often as I did as a child, and there doesn't seem to be any one, specific trigger for it, but I do still have it occasionally to this day.  This is the only recurring nightmare I have.  I had one other as a child, but that one (about a giant, floating eyeball, of all things) stopped when I was maybe 11 or 12.  I just never realized there was a photograph to go with the dream.  Freaky, huh?

(By the way, I have been to Trump Tower many times since that night.  I've even ridden those same escalators, both as a child and an adult.  It never did alleviate the nightmare.)

What about you?  Am I the only one to have a recurring nightmare that began in childhood?  Anyone else share my fear of falling from a height?  Have I just outed myself as certifiably freaky?


KiKi said...

Interesting post!! I've had a recurring nightmare since childhood. I haven't had it as much since I was young -- but really all through my childhood it was the the dream I am trapped in a burning building. I escape to the roof, but everything is burning around me. Doesn't sound too exciting, but I used to have it over and over again, with no explanation. There is a second dream, which might make for a good post of my own...I don't dream about it at all as an adult, but when I was a teenager, I told my mother about it. I kept dreaming that I was at my grandparents' house and I opened a drawer to find this spooky doll dressed all psychedelic...I described it to my mother...and when I would open the drawer I would scream--because it was just so frightening. Come to find out, this was something that actually happened when I was probably not even 2 years old. It was a Flip Wilson doll. I was so afraid of it, they hid it in the bottom drawer of a hutch at my grandparents' house, and one day I opened the drawer and found it there...and was inconsolable. I don't remember who, but someone bought me the same doll at a flea market when I was in my 20s...I'm not afraid of it today, but it flipped (no pun intended) my mother out when I recalled this recurring dream to her. Geeze, I just wrote an entire post in your comments. Sorry about that! :-P

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Wow, you're certainly not a freak! My recurring dream is about coming to a railroad tracks and being SOOO tired, then looking for the train and, seeing nothing, I begin to cross. Always, immediately upon stepping onto the tracks I hear the train coming. And I don't get stuck but I just can't hardly cross the tracks because I'm so tired. I always step off as the trian whirrs by at my back.

And, it's always a different field. weird? As a child I also had a recurring nightmare about being trapped inside a pinball machine as a miniature person with miniature witches, but that has ended, like your giant eyeball!

My name is Andy. said...

Weird....when I saw the picture of you on the elevator I thought "Freaky, another twin moment!" Alas my recurring dream is not falling but riding on escalators. I've never been to or seen the Trump tower, but your second shot looks suspiciously like my dream. A huge tall building with 100s of escalators and I have to go up or down them. But they are really steep and going super fast! I step on it and it's like riding a roller coaster straight down, except I'm standing up and trying to keep my balance.

I have no idea what caused my nightmare, but mine too has been around for 30+ years.


Creative Junkie said...

I think this happens to a lot of people, although I have no idea why. I have two: my teeth rotting and then falling out, with no pain though. And being trapped under water and almost drowning before I realize that I can breathe under water.

Humans are strange.

Coco said...

I used to have dreams about falling and/or earthquakes that were so real I'd fall out of bed. Later, my mom found out I had chronic infections which caused my equilibrium to be off.

Tonsillectomy took care of that one, which was then replaced by dreams of being in the middle of an ice-filled ocean with an assortment of giant sharks coming toward me. That would be easily explained by the release of "Jaws" on HBO. My parents totally sucked at monitoring my TV intake.

Ronnica said...

I have the same fear of you...the FALLING from a height. I don't like cliffs or anything without a secure, tall railing. My nightmares as a child were always of falling off either 2nd floors (which had no railings in my dreams) or off a tall building overlooking a pool.