Each night, before we put Stella in her room (where, and I still can't believe I can write this, she walks herself to bed, lays herself down and sleeps through the night), I ask Stella what she wants to dream about.
"What are you going to dream about tonight, honey?"
And if she doesn't have an answer, I give her an idea - usually something fun we did that day, something involving her cats or me or Dave or her Mamaw or whatever. Something sweet and soothing.
I do this because, as a child, I was an incredibly troubled sleeper. And part of the reason I was so troubled was because it seemed every time I closed my eyes, I had a nightmare.
A dream that people had broken into the house to murder us, but nobody would listen when I told them to evacuate.
A dream that a nuclear bomb was headed for the U.S. but I couldn't find my mom.
A dream that I fell into a manhole on the street and ended up in Hell.
I will do everything in my power to keep Stella from experiencing such terrifying, sleepless nights. So now, while she's young and impressionable, I'm teaching her to think of relaxing, comforting images as she soothes off.
About a month ago, Dave, Stella and I headed to the local "Halloween Express," Louisville's answer to NYC's Ricky's - an overpriced Mecca of goulish rubber masks and sexy fill-in-the-blank costumes. (Sexy Mad Hatter? Really?)
Stella loved it. Loved it to pieces. Even the enormous, mewing, head-swaying black cat with red eyes. "Wodo!" she called out to it lovingly, assuming it was Cromwell and not wanting to leave its side.
That night, when I asked her what she would dream about, she proclaimed, "HALLOWEEN STORE!" So we imagined roaming the aisles, Wodo by our side, before she drifted off.
The funny thing is, ever since then, that's the thing she wishes to dream about every night when I ask her the question. Including the other night, when she talked about bringing the entire family to the Halloween Store, including Bubbie and Aunt Nora.
I kind of hope this sticks for a long time. I kind of hope next Spring, as the buds begin to blossom and the air begins to warm, that Stella will reply "Halloween Store" when I inquire about her dreams.