But anyway, to liven things up a little, it's time for another round of Chatterbox. December's topic is mythology. My foot is not exactly upon my native heath here, so you and Rachel must forgive me if this scene seems to have only a tenuous connection to the subject. I was lucky enough, though, to have something with even that tenuous connection to draw from, a yet-untitled new idea that blindsided me last month...in a dream, curiously enough. It's something quite new for me: a children's historical fantasy. I haven't actually started writing yet; I'm still getting to know some of the characters and the early parts of the plot in my head; but I'm quite captivated by the idea and want to make time for it in my schedule once I've completed my first few goals of the New Year.
The children were arguing when Peggy came into the nursery. Morrie and Elinor were going at it vigorously, and Drew was shouting every few minutes, “Well, I think—” and then pausing, because the other two never gave him a chance to get any further. They had put all the pillows from the nursery and bedrooms in a circle on the floor with the counterpane from Drew’s bed in the middle, and were sitting in it talking as noisily as the audience at a theatre before the concert begins. When they saw Peggy they all scrambled to their feet, tripping on their nightgowns and the pillows, and crowded around her asking her what she thought.
“About what?” she managed to ask when they all paused to gasp for breath.
“Well, we’re trying to figure it out. Just what are dreams, exactly?” said Morrie.
“I think—” began Elinor in her small piping voice, but Morrie interrupted, “Yes, but why—” and they all talked very fast for another minute until Peggy got hold of Drew and Elinor’s hands and quieted them. “All right, but if we’re going to talk let’s all sit down and be quiet, so we don’t get into trouble. Come along.”
They all plumped eagerly down into the pillows again, Morrie and Elinor on their stomachs and Drew with the edge of the counterpane pulled up to his chin, and Peggy settled herself cross-legged on the biggest pillow with Drew’s stuffed dog tucked in next to her knee. The curtains had all been drawn, and outside in the dark the street-lamps shone mistily the way they do in wintertime, making it seem even smaller and warmer and cozier inside.
“Now, what were you talking about?”
“What Morrie said. What are dreams?” said Elinor.
“Well,” said Peggy rather vaguely, and stopped. She had never really thought about it before then. “They’re just dreams, aren’t they?”
“But they’ve got to be something,” said Morrie.
“I think they’re fairy tales that come true,” said Elinor positively, her little face bright with earnestness.
Morrie shook his head. “If that’s so, why would it only happen when we’re asleep? Fairy tales ought to be able to come true any time they like.”
“Then why don’t they?” said Elinor.
“Do you think they’re fairy tales?” said Drew to Peggy, slightly muffled by the counterpane.
She looked across at Morrie. “What do you think they are?”
Morrie planted his elbows firmly among the pillows. He was glad to have his opinion asked, even if he didn’t have an answer. “Well, dreams can be about anything, can’t they? And everybody has different ones. Doesn’t that mean they’re something real?”
“But there’s all different sorts of fairy tales,” objected Elinor.
“Well,” said Peggy thoughtfully, drawing an armful of the counterpane into her lap, “perhaps you’re both right. I think—I think dreams are made of things that you think about so much, you go on thinking of them even when you’re asleep. Of course they get all mixed up, because you can’t decide just what you want to think while you’re sleeping. But it’s got to be things you think about an awful lot—or think about very hard.”
“Things you wish for, you mean?” said Elinor.
“Perhaps things you don’t know you wish for,” said Peggy. There was a faraway look in her eyes, which seemed to be fixed on the nursery wall. “Or perhaps the things you want so very badly you try to pretend to yourself that you don’t care about them at all, so you’re thinking about them all the time without knowing it.”
“What do you dream about, Peggy?” said Elinor curiously, after a short pause. She looked at her sister with her head on one side.
Peggy looked down from the nursery wall to the children, with the guilty, shrinking feeling that comes after having gotten carried away. She smiled rather sadly at Elinor. “I don’t dream very much,” she said. “I suppose I’m too tired to dream. I just fall asleep.”
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