The Dream: I'm on an escalator, of the sort that is stacked one on top of the next like a stairwell in a very tall building. I am with my mother. The feeling of the place is something like a combination of a department store and the stairwell of the Brooklyn apartment my mother grew up in.
I am unaware that I have a baby until it jumps across the stair rail, heading for a steep and deadly fall, down so many stories that I can't see the bottom. I think my reaction time will be too slow to save her—but even as I have this thought I've reached out my hand and grabbed her by the legs, bringing her back to safety. She's about 7 inches tall, tiny and more like a doll than a baby. I'm very relieved to have saved her; I holler her name in relief and vexation.
Interpretation: My husband Clark and I have been listening to a philosophy course on “the meaning of life.” The course insists that “spontaneity” is essential to a meaningful life (probably because most philosophers so lack the quality). The dream deals with the age (7) at which my own spontaneity was curtailed by coming up against the requirements of my 2nd grade teacher that I sit down and—more important—shut up. Having lost my battle with the establishment I reformed and by the third grade had become a model student.
The little figure who is ready to jump to her doom (my spontaneous self) is rescued by the part of me who doesn’t think she has it in her (doubts her reaction time will be fast enough). The truly spontaneous part acts even before the thought is finished—so this dream might point to a positive development: that adult spontaneity—strong, purposefully doing the right thing—can rescue the child spontaneity that lacks judgment and foresight. Mother lurks in the background but plays no other role.