A few days ago, I got my hands on a copy of Storyworks magazine. I wrote a story called “Silver Dollar Dreams” for the January issue. There are incredible illustrations by Kyle Stone (which I are so amazing I can’t stop staring at them). I got to work with Lauren Tarshis, the editor of Storyworks (the very same Lauren Tarshis who created Emma-Jean Lazarus, one of the most memorable characters in children’s literature. Lauren’s books Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love are among my all time favorites).
My story is about a ten-year old boy who has a dream. Two actually. A big impossible one which he calls a “buried treasure dream” (winning the lottery would be an example of a big dream) and smaller, easier to attain ones, he calls a “silver dollar dreams.”
Storyworks is a magazine for schools, so there’s a teacher’s edition that has some questions about the story. One of the questions for students to answer is "Which is more important? Silver dollar dreams or buried treasure ones."
I ask my husband while we’re chopping vegetables. Fortunately I don’t have to explain the silver dollar/buried treasure dream concept to him since he’s
His answer is immediate. “Small dreams, because they’re possible to attain.”
I hand him an onion. “But don’t you think that the big dreams give you some context for the little dreams. Big dreams provide a blueprint for..
My husband interrupts... “a blueprint for the disappointments and failures in your life.” He laughs as he says it… but still.
We chop silently until carrot time. (We’re making soup) I tell him that impossible dreams fill people with hope and give them a chance to see themselves in a whole new light.
“Give me an example,” he says.
“Okay, when you were a little kid, didn’t you dream of being Superman?” It’s more like an accusation than a question. I happen to know that he was one of those kids who jumped off furniture wearing a beach towel as a cape.
“My point, exactly,” he says. “When was the last time you saw me run faster than a speeding bullet or leap over a tall building in a single bound? It’s kind of disappointing that it didn’t happen.”
“Come on. It was fun to be Superman.” I hand him a celery stalk. “By dreaming about Superman, maybe that child learns he wants to save the world. He could grow up to be a cop or firefighter.”
“Isn’t it better to dream about being a firefighter? Then that child would have reached his dream”
Frankly I’m surprised with his answers (and suspect that if I asked him another time, they might be different). This is the man whose boyhood dreams of becoming an astronaut inspired me to set my debut novel during the week of the first moonwalk. So I remind him of this fact. I also remind him about how often he says that this single historic event taught an entire generation to dream big.
He asks me if we need more celery. Then he adds, “Perhaps big dreams are good for society.”
“But not for the individual?” I ask.
I’ve seen the StarTrek movie where Spock dies in order to save everyone else so I know what he’s talking about. But I’m not buying it. “If you met a boy who said he dreamed of being Superman, would you tell him not to do it? That it’s never going to happen so he should modify his dream and lower his expectations?”
“How old is the boy?”
He’s quiet for a moment. “Of course not.” Before I could shake the parsley at him and say “I told you so,” he adds, “but what would you say to a sixteen-year-old who had that same dream? Wouldn’t you tell him to consider a plan B?”
He got me. If a sixteen-year-old told me he wanted to be Superman, I’d probably go all librarian on him and start pulling out a few of those Ferguson Career Guides and suggest he think of something else.
So at what age are you expected to temper your dreams? Are children the only ones allowed to have big impossible ones? As adults don’t we get some too? Maybe there is a fine line between this-dream-is-a-little-out-there to let’s-get-you-some-professional-help-because-your-dreams-are-crazy. But people beat the odds all time. They win lotteries. They have miraculous recoveries. They do something that others said could never be done. Their giant dreams come true.
I have tons of small dreams. But I have some really big ones also. And I know there’s a good chance they might never happen. But I can’t imagine a life without big impossible dreams. And I can’t imagine a world without people who dream them.