We were surrounded by family and friends at a restaurant Sunday. Convivially, my wife brought up the fact that I used to have very vivid dreams that I believed to be true until I was convinced otherwise after slow awakening. We laughed particularly hard at the one I had about swallowing a pencil. I had that dream early in our marriage when we were spending the night at my parents’ house.
At about 2 a.m. I was on my hands and knees in the bed coughing and spitting. Groggily, my wife said, “What are you doing?” Between coughs and gagging I muttered from my sleep-sodden subconscious that I had swallowed the pencil that was on the night stand. “Why did you have it in your mouth,” she asked, as if I were rational and awake. “I don’t know, but I swallowed it and I can’t get it to come up.”
At that point, she apparently perceived that I was asleep. She had always heard that it was dangerous to touch a person having a nightmare for fear of the reaction, so she got out of bed and began to call my name loudly. Her alarmed utterances brought Mother and Pop from a snoring sleep to an adrenaline-pumping awareness. They came wide-eyed into the room.
“What the Dickens is wrong with you, boy,” Pop wanted to know. My wife, beginning to see the humor in the situation, said, “He thinks he swallowed a pencil.” Mother, also amused, asked, “Where did he get it?” My wife explained that I told her it had been on the night stand. “There was no pencil on the night stand,” Mother laughed, “He’s dreaming.”
I was beginning to come to a little bit by then, and remember that Pop started laughing and had to sit down on the bed he was so tickled. For the rest of his life he would ask me often if I had swallowed any pencils lately.
Well, when my wife told that story at the restaurant last Sunday, one of our friends there was not listening to the whole narrative, having been preoccupied with the menu, the children and other matters. So, when the explosive laughter subsided at the table, he asked, “How long was the pencil you swallowed, Dan?” Then the laughter started again and I had a difficult time through the mirth recounting to him that it had been a dream.
I’m very thankful that I sleep more peacefully in my old age and have not had such a vivid and disturbing dream experience in many years. In fact, I often don’t remember my dreams. The ones I do recall, I try to record, because I read a book by J. B. Priestly called “Man and Time” which contends that we can have precognitive dreams, that is, dreams that predict the future. Be that as it may, I’m sure glad the pencil dream did not come true. I try not even to chew the end of a pencil.