Daydreams Do Not Age

Great Aunt Ella once told me a secret that I believe she had kept to herself for a life-time. Late on a summer afternoon during a visit in which we were recalling old times, she leaned towards me and said, “I do not recall the year, but it was when they were building a new Rozzelles Ferry bridge by my grandparents inn. I was young and the war was a long time past. I was the first generation born after the Civil War.

We keep our daydreams inside a Cupid’s heart shaped porcelain box in the gables of our minds.

The bridge the government was replacing was burned by Stoneman’s Raiders in April 1865. After the bridge was burned; my poppa and grandfather began to ferry people across the Catawba River like our family had done since the mid-1700s. It was good to work, again, at the family trade. We were ferrymen.

“In that mess of Reconstruction,” she continued, “it was years before a new bridge was erected across the Catawba River. At noon, we rang the bell for them to come to dinner. It took a bunch of carpenters and laborers to build the bridge. They were all from different places. There were tall men, skinny men, laughing men, fat men, men who scared me on sight, foreigners, grumblers, and Yankees. Two young men wore their Yankee fathers’ blue uniforms. They expected us to bow and whine before them. I disliked them most. All those men from every where in the world could do some talking. Those men could do sure eat. I heard my first cuss words that summer.

“It took all of us to feed them in the time allotted. Polly, Cousin Ella, Grandmother Anne, my mom, Great Grandmother Elizabeth and me; we fed them as fast as we could. I have never forgotten that summer. I made a painting of the new bridge when it was finished. It is hanging in the dining room.”

Great Aunt Ella sat back in her embroidered chair; her grey hair rested upon a hand-crocheted doily across the back of the chair. Then, she took a deep breath, leaned forward, and, quickly said, “During that time, there was a good-looking Greek man. He liked to tease me and to make me laugh. Once, he touched my hair. When the bridge was finished, he asked me to marry him.”

In that moment, Great Aunt Ella was well into her eighth decade, but her eyes sparkled like someone’s sweetheart. Her blue eyes reflected a kaleidoscope of fantasies and daydreams where an exotic stranger dwells.

Like an unrequited love, daydreams do not age. Daydreams are never bruised by reality. We keep our daydreams inside a Cupid’s heart shaped porcelain box in the gables of our minds. Daydreams are our own personal, shiny ornaments. Daydreams often spring from paths not taken. That moment of youth, laughter remembered, and boys.
“How exciting,” I said, as I took her small hand, “what did he look like?” Great Aunt Ella blushed. Then, we laughed at it all…as women do.

In that moment, it was easy to imagine her in a long dress with a ruffled hem; she is wearing long white stockings beneath her dress and petticoats. Her long blonde hair is tied back with a ribbon; she is sitting in one of the many white rocking chairs that lined the Inn’s front porch. An exotic stranger, a golden-tanned Greek approaches. He wears a necklace around his neck. It is an orthodox cross stung on a coarse string. He winks at her when he passes and she drops her gaze towards the ground. I know she was blushing for she is still blushing these many years later. But she is pleased…like all young, pretty, and unwed sweethearts. But, she was a proper lady and her parents would never have tolerated such thoughts.

Life was good to Great Aunt Ella. She married a wonderful hard-working man and lived happily and, as far as I know, happily ever after. During her lifetime she nurtured a loving family. She lived to know her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. But, Great Aunt Ella died before I married a Greek.

Maybe it is better that way, for I would have brought disillusion. I would have harmed her and her daydreams. On that afternoon, I wish I had made arrangements for the two of us to sail to Greece. The beauty would have swept her away. Sometimes, it is better to only daydream about temptations. We all need our day-dreams.

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