-a spell from Harry Potter, used to erase a specific memory.
Lala’s fourth grade teacher is in town for the summer. A few girls from the class and their mothers, myself included, got together with her one evening not long ago.
‘The girls’ are now women. We chatted about master’s degrees, careers and the high cost of living. Their teacher expressed amazement at seeing her students all grown up. In her memory, she said, they were still ten years old.
Her comment made me smile. In my mind, Lala’s friends are always nineteen years old. That’s hold old Lala was when she died. Looking at these girls it was hard to believe how much a young person can change in only three years.
I continued to smile and pretend to follow the conversation, but I wasn’t listening. I was imagining the Lala that might have been there with us had she been alive.
As I sat conjuring the Lala that will never be, the teacher’s precocious four year old boy ran up to me and donning the persona of the young wizard Harry Potter, he exclaimed, “I can cast an Oblivion spell on you and make you forget all your memories!”
I lie awake that night wondering, if that little wizard could truly cast his spell, would I accept the offer of oblivion?
A flash of frustration burned through me. How could I lose a child I had worked so hard to raise and protect? What was left of my efforts now that she was gone? Why should I continue to feel the pain of her absence? Why not forget?
And then a swell of desperate hope as I imagined the freedom of oblivion. I fell asleep thinking of a life without the memory of Lala…and had my first lucid dream of my daughter since she died.
…I am in the stairwell of an office building, climbing the metal stairs. A couple of steps above me, two legs appear wearing black corduroy leggings with designs – little red ducks? – on them.
I look up and see the legs are attached to my beautiful daughter, Lala.
“Mommy!” she yells, and throws herself into my arms. She is crying.
So real. I feel the weight of her body against mine, my fingers tangle in the knots of her hair as I push her head against my shoulder and rock her, saying over and over, “I believe, I believe…”
I hold her back from me a little bit, so I can look into her face. Ah, that face. She looks back at me, both of us pushing our eyes to some supernatural limit – for what? What do we want to see?
And then she collapses in my arms, eyes closed, head back, her long curls brushing the ground. She is dead. Worse – she is starting to disappear, to fade away.
“No, no, not yet!” I begged.
I’m not hoping she’ll stay alive, I know she can’t. I just want to show this brief reincarnation to others, to prove that she had been here. I want them to say, “I believe.”
Cradling her in my arms, I run to where my family and some friends are gathered.
By the time I get there, Lala is almost gone. I hand her to my parents and they hold their arms as I had, but it is clear they are only pantomiming the shape and weight I had presented to them. I point to Lala’s eyes, fading into the background of my father’s arms. My parent’s shake their heads sadly and say, “No…all we see are some abstract shapes….”
As soon as Lala is gone, the immediacy of the dream slips away and I am back in an undulating landscape of the surreal.
Most of us can’t help but analyze our dreams. The end result of the analysis can be very different depending on personal beliefs.
From a clinical perspective my dream could be explained by the “continuity hypothesis” – a theory that assumes dreams reflect the circumstances of waking life. The idea makes sense; my dream was simply a manifestation of what I had been thinking about as I fell asleep.
A metaphysical interpretation might suppose the spirits of the dead know that oblivion is a curse, not a gift. Maybe Lala came to warn me against forgetting.
The least likely scenario is one of pure fantasy. Perhaps the little wizard did cast a spell upon me. In its thrall I experienced my daughter not as a memory but as flesh and blood. A bit of magic to remind me that Lala’s presence in my life is something I would never, ever want to forget.