Sunday, February 27, 2022

Writing "Dream Catcher"

by Bacopa Literary Review 2021 Fiction contributor Elizabeth Christopher

I started writing "Dream Catcher" a couple of months into the pandemic. We had been nestled at home together for weeks--my three kids, my husband, and I. My husband soon returned to work outside the house, but I never did. Rather, my office became a refinished room in the attic, where I wrote copy for a technology company during the day and worked at my fiction before sunrise and late at night.

When we had a COVID scare, I also slept in that attic room. Though I was self-sequestered, I became aware that I wasn't alone. I heard "wings beating behind plaster and lath" in the wee hours of the morning. One time, I got out of bed, crept across the dark room, tapped on the wall, and waited for a response. None came. But eventually a story did.

The story was about a woman older than I am. Her house was an empty nest, unlike mine. Her children no longer "fluttered around these rooms" like mine still do. Yet, alone in my attic space, I could feel her loss, her grief for her grown children who had flown off to faraway places, and I imagined the regret she might feel for those times she resented them, when they were small and "their presence felt heavy."

They were always climbing into my lap pulling at my arms. The air in these rooms was thick with their wanting. It was like gravity.

The guilt from her belief that she drove them away weighed on this woman, as did the guilt of killing the mice whose feces she found in her muffin tins, "like some miniature game of Mancala." But she would not make that mistake again. She'd protect those "small downy bodies huddled in a thatch of leaves and insulation" within her walls, those mice whose teeth made "sunbursts" in her cereal bag, and that bird that crashed into her window like "a tennis ball's thwack."

It's no wonder that birds flew into many of the pieces published in the 2021 edition of Bacopa Literary Review as the editors noted in their foreword. The pandemic sent us indoors, leaving us to look out at a smaller, more intimate world from our windows. What I saw, and I guess what many others did too, were birds--birds persisting in their nest building, in their singing, in their fluttering--day after day, season after season. How their small, nearly weightless forms unsteadied me and filled me with hope, just like stories do.

*     *     *

Elizabeth Christopher is a freelance writer living in Melrose, MA. Her stories and essays have been published in HuffPost, The Writer, Obelus Journal, and elsewhere. See more at Elizabeth Christopher's website.