At 1:30 this morning, I heard the familiar creak of Noelle’s door opening, her little feet padding across the hardwood floors and into our room.  She was crying.  “I had a bad dream.”  I didn’t have to turn over or open my eyes to see her little face in my mind’s eye, hovering over Dwayne’s side of the bed, lit by the blueish glow of our digital clocks.

He pulled her into the bed with us, where she snuggled down between us, her warm body resting gently against my back.

Somewhere in the night, after the tears had dried up and she lay in a peaceful, dreamless sleep, Dwayne scooped her up and returned her to her bed.

This did not stop my own nightmares from pooling in the early morning hours.

In my dream, I took Noelle to Payless to buy new shoes.  Toward the end of our trip, I decided to attend a cooking class. So I left Noelle at the store, unattended, and drove across town to the class.  I had a great time in the class, cooking, meeting people.  At the end of the session, I began to clean up, and then the horror of what I had done slowly dawned on me.  Somewhere, across the other side of the city, Noelle was all alone, unattended in a public place.

I jumped in the car and sped off as fast as I could but the GPS wouldn’t get me there, and my memory warped and turned so that I couldn’t remember my way back.  In that moment, I envisioned all the horrible things that could be happening to her, and a final and gut wrenching thought clunked to the bottom of my stomach like a heavy stone: I was an unfit mom.  The worst was coming true, I was losing my mind, and was no longer able to watch over my kids.

I woke out of my sleep like a woman gasping for air.

“Mommy! Mommy!” Nathan’s voice reached me from the other room.  I pushed my way out from under the covers, and glanced at the clock. 6:48 am.  Not too bad. He had slept in.  I carried Nathan downstairs and began folding the massive pile of laundry waiting by the couch in the early morning light.

Later this morning, after Noelle had gotten up, and Dwayne had gotten up and the house was finally shaking sleep from it’s eyes, I found Noelle sitting in Dwayne’s lap in the living room.

“Oh no!  Don’t tell me!” Dwayne crooned. “It’s too scary! You’re scaring me!”

A glint of a smile flashed across Noelle’s face.  “I want to hear it,” I said.  “What was your dream about Noelle?”

“No!  Don’t say it again!” Dwayne pleaded.  “I can’t take it!”

Noelle turned to me, “There was a unicorn with a person’s head and it had a horn sticking out of it’s head and it stuck it’s tongue out at me.”  As she talked, her mouth pulled down again, as if the memory would make her cry all over again.  Dwayne hugged her.  I gave her a kiss.

And there you have it: my version of a nightmare and Noelle’s.