Back in the….

I usually don’t get too excited about my dreams. Most of the time, I’ll have recurring scenarios in very similar settings, so I suppose it’s just writer brain putting things together, or else wish-fulfillment of some sort. I didn’t have Covid dreams early on in the pandemic, though those have been popping up with more frequency in the last six months or so–the mask version of showing up nekkid in class for a test, that sort of thing.

And then.

Last night’s dream was straight out of the Boomer-Jones Generation nightmare folder.

Nuclear strike evacuation.

At least it was era-appropriate–Covid was not a concern, so there were no masks. For some reason, we had advance notice, so it was a matter of packing things up and leaving at the appropriate time (which was SO not true back in those days). And this dream didn’t feature the actual nuclear explosion. All very orderly and together, except I was dreaming in detail about the entire packing process. What to take. What not to take.

No kids of my own, and I wasn’t my current age. A maternal, senior figure was present, and there was another family with kids. We had a horse who was vaguely like Mocha, someone else had a cat, and another person a dog. Coordination seemed to be an issue.

Then I woke up. Probably and thankfully before the nuke went off.

I had to wonder about just why this particular past anxiety decided to show up right now. Because yes, when I was younger, there was a lot of nuclear anxiety going on. When I was in elementary school, the school lobby contained diagrams of award-winning school fallout shelter design. I remember my mother emptying out sealed quart canning jars containing water, with a notice from the paper on the cabinet door about how to store it.

But I really didn’t know details about nukes until I was in 6th grade or so. I think that was about the time we had our first Civil Defense trainings that were a bit more explicit about nuclear war and the dangers of it. Being a Jones, I was too young to remember details about the Cuban Missile Crisis (though I clearly remember JFK’s funeral on TV, hearing about it at school–1st grade–and LBJ’s election). When I got to junior high, we spent more time talking about civil defense and I read a bunch of nuke war books, including Alas Babylon, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and others of that ilk. Now some of that may have been tied to a career-military sibling who was, after one tour, involved in infantry things that Weren’t Vietnam, or it might have been just that I was the child of older parents who had gone through WWII, lived in Pendleton after WWII for a couple of years, and as a result I had more concerns about it. I remember the grownups talking about Eugene being a bomb target because it was a major railroad switchyard. Just casual talk by adults, not doomtalking by kids. But us kids were around to hear it.

I remember being afraid that Nixon was going to go nuclear rather than deal with Watergate.

Those fears extended into the Reagan era. We moved to Portland in the early ’80s, which was my first time living around a major airport, and for the first six months I’d startle awake, worried that the airplanes I heard coming in for a landing were actually missiles.

Nuclear fears started fading about 1992 and they haven’t really been a part of my dreams or even conscious thought since then.

So where the hell did this anxiety dream come from? Concerns about the events in Ukraine, or something else?

Writer brain processing a story it isn’t telling me about yet?

I have no idea. But I’m scratching my head about this particular theme reappearing.

I’m not exactly someone who ascribes significant meanings to my dreams or even remembers their details for long. Still…this one continues to resonate. That’s probably because it hooks back into childhood anxieties.

(Not that I would be inclined to pack up and evacuate these days. Too old to do the survival dance that would require, realistically, and in any case in the dream, I was young enough that it might be a reasonable possibility.)

Strange, very strange. Brain, what on earth are you up to now?

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