"Interview with Mom about Dreams" by Nina Posner
Nina Posner: You have a lot of vivid dreams, right?
Elizabeth Posner: Correct.
NP: What do you think that means?
EP: Well, I think it means a few things. From a very practical sense, I think it means that I am not a very deep sleeper. From a kind of… I guess, ethereal sense, I think it means I’ve had some past lives.
NP: Oh! Could you say more about that?
EP: Well, sometimes in my dreams, someone in my life, and this could be from forty years ago, will show up in my dream, either as their forty year ago self, but it will feel like the present. Or sometimes, I can see and touch and feel someone in my dream extremely vividly who I have never met before, whose face is completely unfamiliar, but yet my subconscious has created a being and their face and their image, but I’ve never seen it before. So I find that actually even more provocative.
NP: Than what?
EP: I mean, it is a little random when you dream about the friends you had in seventh grade and haven’t thought about for forty years, and yet they show up in your dream for no apparent reason. You knew them once in your life, but to have a whole dream that revolves around a relationship of someone, and you can see them and touch them and feel them, but you don’t know them, where does that come from? How does your subconscious mind create that? So I still have some unanswered questions.
NP: Mhmm. For sure.
EP: That’s good stuff.
NP: Yeah! So you see faces in your dreams? I don’t really see faces.
EP: Whatever is happening in the dream… this is another topic. Sometimes the dreams are “dreamlike,” foggy, unclear. I’ve had the no teeth dream, which is… you can look that up, that means something, I can’t remember what it is. But all of a sudden you’re like “I have no teeth!” and it’s scary. I’ve had the wave dream…
NP: I’ve never had the wave dream!
EP: …on more than one occasion for sure, where, you know, the wave is crashing over you and having gone to the beach a lot, I know the best way is not to try to jump over it, but to dive under it, hold your breath and let it ride out. That’s usually what happens for me, I never get hit by the wave and tumble and fall, or wake up like I can’t breathe… But I do have this fear, when I see the wave coming, “what am I gonna do” and and then I usually wake up, that’s the end of that. Sometimes the dreams are cloudy and in a dream state, other times they’re very vivid, very real, I’m walking somewhere, or driving in a car. It’s very clear. I’m having whole conversations that I can remember sometimes if I wake up in the night, and I should write them down but I’m probably groggy. And then sometimes I don’t remember, but I remember thinking “oh I solved that problem,” like we talked it through, and I actually went through thought processes in my dream.
NP: Hm! That’s a lot more sophisticated than my dreams, which I feel are usually pretty idiosyncratic… or scary.
EP: But I’m older! I can’t tell you… I think I’ve always been a dreamer, they say I’m the only one, hahaha, but I don’t remember when I was 18 if they were like they are now. So maybe it’s age and time. Although I will say, [your] Great Grandma Nina died when I was 15, and for a while I had very vivid dreams of her, even in college, where she would come to me in my dream, and these were foggy and fuzzy, literally her coming out of the dark tunnel and into the light to me. And she was just like she looked, like when I last saw her, and I’d be so happy to see her, and I knew she was dead. I would say “you’re here! You came to see me!” and I would be so happy, and then I would wake up and be sad because she wasn’t there. I think that’s very typical, and happens to people all the time. I really run the full gamut of dream things. I’ve rarely had dreams about [your] Grandpa.
NP: Huh. Do you think when you have dreams about Great Grandma Nina—
EP: And that’s a long time ago.
NP: Yeah. Do you think that’s a coping thing, or do you think that’s her, in some ethereal manner, coming down and connecting with you?
EP: I used to think the latter, but I haven’t dreamt about her for a long time. So I think maybe at that point in time it was a coping mechanism. She was the very first person I ever loved deeply who died, so I would say that was my first experience with death in that way. And I loved [your great grandpa] Poppy dearly, but I really didn’t have dreams about him. One could hypothesize but I don’t know all the answers to that.
NP: Let’s see…
EP: I’ve covered a lot… I think there are Freudian things, where you can look at your dreams and say “a lot of people have that dream,” there’s a very clear connection as to why. I think what’s different about mine is that I’ve had the cloudy “wooo” dream, heavenly, wispy and yet we can walk kind of dream. But I also once interviewed Jackson Browne in a dream for something, and I was asking him questions and we were having a conversation and I can remember formulating questions and it being a great interview. I knew I wasn’t a journalist but I was writing it for something, and it just made us really friendly and I truly felt super close to him after doing this interview, and feeling very connected… I mean, I’ve had dreams about Jackson probably ten times. And different kinds. But that one was somewhat recently, and it was so real. I woke up and was like “oh, I didn’t interview Jackson Browne.” It was so real, he was so there. Sometimes mine are so real, it totally could happen, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility literally. So then you’re disappointed when you wake up. And sometimes it’s super fun! I sometimes dream about celebrities I like: “oh I met Bradley Cooper, he was so nice to me.” Like weird, and he’ll pop up.
NP: Are your dreams all positive, or do you have nightmares a lot?
EP: The teeth dream, the wave dream, another common dream theme is falling, you slip and you fall but you never actually fall because you wake up. And I’ve woken up with a start, you brace your fall in your dream. Definitely. I had a dream not that long ago where someone was breaking into the house, not a house that I knew, but it was my house. I had a baseball bat and running around and trying to get you guys out of the house, and we weren’t in Chicago, we were on a farm, and I was super scared and I woke up. So it all worked out. But my heart was pounding.
NP: Whenever I have scary dreams, I wake up with a start and my heart is pounding in my ears. Do you know that feeling?
EP: Mine is more pounding in my chest, I literally have to catch my breath, or a couple times, I’ll be having a bad dream and I want to scream. Because in the dream something is happening that I need to yell for help, and in the dream I can’t. That very act wakes me, I think, because I’m literally trying to yell.
NP: I’ve had stuff like that too, where I can’t talk or speak to someone, I think it’s not a deep sleep dream, but a very light sleep dream. And then I try to say something, and then I wake up. And then when I was younger, like 8 or 9, I had this saga nightmare. It was like a movie.
EP: Oh yeah, I’ve had that, where a dream goes over multiple nights, or multiple stories, or multiple dreams. You wake up and go right back to sleep and kind of have another dream. Again, what is this piece for?
NP: It’s for Raincoat. That zine.
EP: Oh yeah.
NP: Do you feel like you gain things from your dreams that you can use in life, or that people that don’t dream are at a disadvantage because they don’t dream?
EP: Not necessarily. I’ve never had a dream where I was like “oh, I came up with the cure for cancer!” I’ve never had an epiphany dream, where I was like “I’m gonna solve this.” Or if I did, it was some trivial task. I guess it makes my unconscious state a little interesting, sometimes the dreams are fun or funny, and that’s nice, but I don’t think anyone is missing out if they don’t have that.
NP: Now we’re gonna switch gears a bit and talk about dreams in general, in the more not so literal sense. Do you think dreams are the same as goals?
EP: Like “dreams and aspirations?” Yeah, I think your dreams can be goals, sure.
NP: Then why don’t we just call them goals?
EP: We could. I think they’re synonyms.
NP: Mm. That’s very logical. That’s all I have. Is there anything interesting that you want to talk about more?
EP: No, I hope they think that’s interesting. It’s interesting to me and you. You’re not gonna say it was your mother, was it?
NP: Yeah I am! That’s the whole point. Generation to generation.
EP: Okay. I’ve had dreams about you girls, good and bad, and that’s scary. Nothing scarier than when you’re trying to protect your children and can’t get to them. I’ve had that dream, which I think is probably typical in the dream world. And I’ve always thought about leaving a pad of paper and a pen by my bed, but it never seems as interesting as when I was in it. The most interesting part of it is when I see vivid people that I don’t know. So maybe in my life, in my brain, over the files of information that’s stored, I may have seen that person once in my life. I remember being a little girl, I don’t think it was a dream, I was really little, 7 or 8. Grandma took me to Lord & Taylor to see Santa or something, and I saw this woman. There was something about her that I remember thinking was “creepy.” And then we went to another store, like three days later, and I saw her again. And it happened a third time. This was before “stalking” was in the vernacular, but I remember thinking “why do I keep seeing this woman? She’s creepy and she’s gonna get me.” I really don’t even know if it was real or a dream. I might have even said something to Grandma, like: “this woman! We keep seeing her. She's creeping me out.” And Grandma would be like “oh it’s nothing.” I guess I feel like I’m a bit too helicopter parent. The “I’m gonna fight for you” kind of thing. I’m not the kind of parent who’s like “my kid only shits pink cotton balls.” I recognize you all have faults, versus the parent who can’t deal with… Some people don’t want to recognize [their child’s faults] at all. So that’s interesting. But in my dreams, and not even in my dreams, I’ll fight for you.
NP: Aw, thanks.
EP: And it’s never too late to have dreams! They don’t have to be so grandiose. I sometimes feel like people say “I don’t have a dream.” But your dreams can be little! Maybe dreams are also just desires or goals. And the goals don’t have to be lofty. They can be small. Like I want to be able to run a mile again.
NP: Do you have any closing thoughts on our interview?
EP: Um, I love you. Does that count?
EP: You’re my dream! I dreamed I’d have a girl. I knew you were gonna be a girl, my first one. I didn’t know always I wanted to call you Nina, but it became pretty clear. And when I was pregnant with you, I had no image of who you are. I definitely had a relationship to what was inside of me, but it wasn’t at all you. You were Pookie Junior, we called you PJ, totally non gender specific, not even in our pronouns. We didn’t say “it,” I didn’t like that, but I never even thought of you like she or he, just “the baby.” You had no gender, I didn’t think of you that way, I just thought “baby.”
NP: Well, we know gender is a social construct anyway.
EP: Yeah. I didn’t picture you. You were a lot though, because you were the first. You were the only one. I was like, “oh my god it’s like Alien!” I’d just be watching my stomach, and all of a sudden, your foot would push against my stomach, and I’d see a foot! Literally, the whole foot. The outline and the foot. I was like “what the hell?! That’s my stomach! It’s Alien! It’s coming out!” And you’d make waves. I’d say “what is the baby doing?” Sometimes you would shift, and instead of it looking like a nice round ball, you’d be on the side, in an oblong shape, the left would be way down, and all the bigness would be on the right side. I was like “is this what’s supposed to happen? I’ve never seen this.” You were quite the swimmer I guess, maybe doing backflips or something. It was freaky. These are the things… I was 33 years old, how come no one told me that? I’m gonna tell you everything. How come no one tells you about delivering the placenta?
NP: True! This has gotten way off topic…
EP: Want to close out?
NP: Yeah. With something that’s pertinent. To dreams.
EP: To dreams? Dreeeeeams. It’s a good word to say. Dream. Hahaha. It reminds me of the song in Olivia’s montage, that slow song, “dream… a part of you.” Believe in yourself. But those are different dreams. If you’re talking about the nighttime kind, I guess enjoy your subconscious life because it’s like half of it. Or a third of it. Did you like that?
EP: Was this helpful?
NP: Yes. Thank you.
EP: You’re welcome.