I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
We had a busy weekend, Hannah and I. Between getting up very early both mornings and driving home late last night, we both were exhausted.
Hannah fell asleep in the back seat and I drove. I was so tired, I missed one of my exits which made an already long drive even longer. Hannah slept through it all. The 2 1/4 hour drive became 2 3/4 hours. And Hannah slept.
I was rustling around in my bag for a granola bar. Since Hannah was sleeping, I didn’t stop anywhere for dinner. In the midst of my rummaging, I drifted onto the rumble strip on the edge of the Interstate. That fraction of a second that we rumbled was enough to wake Hannah from a sound sleep.
“Open the door,” she said in a small frightened voice.
I looked at her in the rearview mirror, surprised that she was awake, and not quite sure I was hearing her correctly.
“What?” I said. “What did you say, Hannah?”
“Open the door. I need you to open the door,” she sounded upset and scared.
I knew that she must have been in the middle of a dream when the rumble strip awakened her. Even at home, this can be a tough situation because the child is still more asleep than awake. Their dream can be so real to them that they may act inappropriately. To have this happen while driving a car made me more than a little nervous.
“Hannah,” I said, hoping that hearing her name would help her wake up, “Hannah, do you want me to stop the car?”
“I need you to open the door,” she said with an unsettling urgency. “Open the door!”
“Hannah, I’m driving the car. Do you want me to stop?”
“I. NEED. YOU. TO. OPEN. THE. DOOR.” She made no move to open the door herself, which I found somewhat reassuring, even though she was obviously quite upset. I continued to drive with one eye on the rearview mirror and one eye on the road.
“We’re almost to our exit, Hannah. We’ll stop there, okay?” I said.
“DO YOU SEE THAT THING OVER THERE!!” She fairly screamed this. “OPEN THE DOOR.”
“I’m pulling off, Hannah,” I said, trying to sound calm and very thankful that our exit was here.
She put her blanket over her face and started to cry. Fortunately there is a gas station with a Dunkin’ Donuts right off our exit. I pulled in and turned around to look at her.
“Hannah?” I said. “Hannah, are you awake?”
She took the blanket off her face and looked at me. “I need to go to the bathroom,” was all she said.
We got out of the car together to go inside. The cold March air hit like a blast. She stopped and looked around her. “I know where we are,” she said. “We’re almost home.”
“That’s right,” I said, smiling and relieved.
After using the bathroom and getting some donuts (a must, if you stop at Dunkin’ Donuts), we got back into the car to finish the last leg of the journey.
“Do you remember asking me to open the door?” I asked Hannah.
She started laughing. “Yeah, you wouldn’t open the door for me. I thought you didn’t know what a door was, so I said, ‘See that thing over there?'”
It was my turn to laugh. “I thought you were seeing a monster in the car.”
“Nope, I just had to go to the bathroom,” she answered cheerfully.
We talked about the conversation which Hannah found extremely funny. “Open the door!” she said over and over again, laughing harder each time.
It’s funny how a blast of fresh air, a trip to the bathroom, and a donut can turn a terrible frightening situation into something funny.
May we wake from every dream with such delight.