I had a dream last night—so full of disappointment that it still hangs over me as I drink my third cup of tea (strong with milk) and watch the birds feeding outside my sun room windows. I was on a panel about adoption, a panel of twelve to be interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered. But instead of being in a beautiful building in Washington, D.C., everything was shabby, from the motel where I stayed with my toddler (adopted?) son, to the small NPR building with the outside iron stairs, to the hot crowded hall outside the room where the interview was to take place. I never saw that room, the room that I still hoped would live up to my expectations—the brilliant interviewer, the state of the art microphones, the leather padded chairs around the table. I never saw it because I was five minutes late, along with half the other participants. The door was shut and when it finally opened it was all over—“Sorry, maybe another time, come again.” “But, hold on,” I wanted to shout, “I have something important to say—I am worthy to be on this show!” But nobody seemed to care. Not even a reprimand for being late—just a lack of interest in my lack of presence. Now I can’t help but wonder if this dream had to do with one of my many daydreams—the one of being on NPR’s Fresh Air—-“And today our guest is author Ann Carter discussing her debut book, now a New York Times bestseller. Written with wit and raw honesty, it details her experiences of adopting her two daughters. ”
Such expectations, such dreams, such disappointments. On my third match.com connection, I imaged Macadamia Man (not his real name) to be as funny and intelligent and caring as his emails made him sound. I had daydreams of anticipated weekend rendezvous, of visits filled with shared cooking and country walks, of quiet times on my screened in porch, drinking gin and tonic on summer nights, good scotch on warm autumn afternoons. And always, always in these dreams, he made me laugh. But it didn’t end well and I chided myself for my fanciful self, for my crazy and unlikely imaginings. Were the dreams worth the disappointment?
Since starting my encaustic series, I think a lot about birds and I have no reason to believe they don’t have emotions too. I can see it in the robin at the top of this post. I can see the way he’s dreaming—of spring to come, of the rains that bring out the worms, of the sweet blue eggs that his mate will hatch. And I look at all the birds outside my sun room windows on this cold winter day, the cardinals and chickadees and sparrows and my current favorite, the tufted titmouse—all working so hard to keep themselves alive, their dreams alive. And I know that I’m not yet ready to give up mine.
So NPR, here I come, with book and children in tow. I can see it clearly. We have been staying at an old but classy hotel. I am wearing an artsy outfit and one of my “signature” hats. We walk by the reflecting pool of the Lincoln Memorial and then along the Vietnam Memorial Wall, a stone wall inscribed with the names of so many to remember, names that held dreams and disappointments of their own. And I think about the young woman who designed this, a woman with a grand dream of what could be, in spite of all the obstacles she faced.
When we get to Constitution Avenue, we hail a taxi for the studio (with plenty of time to spare). And now I see a man with us. He is taking Rose’s hand as we get in the taxi, and winking at Helen (who is not sure she really wants to be here). And in the taxi, headed to the Fresh Air interview about my bestselling book, this man turns to me and says something that makes me laugh.