The sound of the ship’s horn penetrates Ivar’s dream, and it fragments like bits of shattered glass.
What had the dream been about?
Ivar tentatively tests his thoughts as if they are opening doors, to see which one lets him in. Had he been dreaming about his family? Working in the forest? His friends? Each thought melts and dissolves before his mind’s eye.
It is too late to get it back.
Ivar knows there is no point to its retrieval. It is as lost to him as the life he is leaving behind. Every wave that the ship pushes through takes him further away from futility, poverty and hopelessness. There is no work for young men in the old country, nor is there a farm to bequeath to him. Times are difficult and will become more difficult. A young man cannot dream for a good future.
The hum of the ship’s engine lulls Ivar back to sleep. And he dreams again.
He dreams of a gathering.
It appears to be a celebration with many people of all ages.
Ivar is surprised that he recognizes the faces of some of the people, although he knows he has never seen them in all of his short eighteen years. Something in their ice blue Nordic eyes, perhaps?
Astonishingly, Ivar hears his own name.
“Min brud Ivar...” My brother, Ivar. An elderly gentleman is speaking. “He left us in 1927.” His audience listens, enraptured. Some ask questions. Why did he leave the old country? Where did he go first? Why didn’t he go back?
Ivar wants to reply, but his mouth will not cooperate.
Ivar hears other conversations. Other names.
He knows the names Kari, Espen, and Per, but who is Richard, Eric, and Angela?
He hears people referring to themselves as Ivar’s daughter. Or son. Another daughter. They have white hair and are bent over.
A handsome young man calls himself Ivar’s great grandson. Someone mentions a great great grandson, a great great granddaughter. They are too small to bring to the gathering.
All the time, the clusters of people change, and the conversations start again. Sometimes, the conversations are intense, with many tears. But always, they begin with the same word: Ivar.
“Ivar, min onkle...” My uncle.
“Jeg husker Ivar.” I remember Ivar.
Ivar is confused.
And then, Ivar has something to smile about.
A box of old photographs is brought out. Many of the faces have been identified, but some have been left in mysterious anonymity for over eighty years. Again, as has been the case for many years, conjectures are made, heads are shaken, years are added up, and possibilities are opposed heatedly. Ivar knows who the people are in the sepia toned photographs, but is powerless to say anything. The mysteries will go on.
Ivar begins to enjoy himself. There is plenty of laughter and good food. In the evening, there is music and dancing. The family, for that is what it is, seems to be having a lot of fun.
Ivar finds a place to sit on the periphery and watches the dancers, his children in their old age, his grandchildren in their middle age, and his great grandchildren in their young adulthood. He continues to be startled by the familial sameness in the faces, uncanny reflections of his own eyes. Several have the same gait, the same solid, broad shoulders. He sees his future, his past, his present, himself. But understanding does not come to him.
One day passes into another. Finally, the song of the fiddle begins to fade.
Someone asks, “I wonder what Ivar would have thought of the gathering if he had been here.”
Ivar wants to say, I am here, but I don’t understand. Who are you? Explain to me, and I will tell you what I think.
As Ivar tries to make his plea, the images begin to disintegrate. He reaches out in an effort to gather the remnants to himself again, but his attempts are in vain. By morning, his dream will have become wisps of fading impressions.
The ship’s horn sounds again, awakening Ivar to his true vision, the life he dared to desire before he left the old country. Promise and hope are waiting in the purple haze of the now visible shoreline, where his first steps will become miles and then years. His children, yet to be born, are calling.
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