How many times have you had a dream that was just too real?

Last night, my Gwennie and I had a slumber party in my bedroom. We made drizzled party popcorn, I painted her tiny fingernails the perfect shade of hot pink and her little toes too. I brushed her long, beautiful hair and marveled that I used to have that hair too. We watched Flushed Away and fell asleep holding hands and snuggled into the feather bed. It was an evening of magical perfection.

I dreamt that we were at a Wal-Mart. The whole family was unloading from the car at the front sidewalk/sliding doors and a valet was parking the car for us (bear with me, it was a dream). Gwen was standing at the sliding doors waiting for us when we were distracted by Kate falling out of the car. We momentarily turned to pick Kate up from the sidewalk and my last vision of Gwen was composed of her hot pink down jacket and long hair slightly lifting in the wind as she stood waiting for us. The doors were sliding open behind her.

Seconds later I turned again to say that we were all set to go inside. I looked to the spot were Gwen had just been standing but she was gone. I did that slightly panicked mommy spin where you contort to look behind and next to your body while growing more frantic. Was she at my legs waiting? Had she moved closer and I didn’t realize? No, she wasn’t with me. I looked to the left and then to the right and saw only strangers moving purposely across the sidewalk, oblivious to my rising fear.

In my mind’s eye, I saw her standing before the sliding door as it opened behind her and realized that she probably just moved inside the doors to wait for us. David and I went inside expecting to see that little hot pink coat and perhaps scold her for leaving our sight. She wasn’t there. We moved into the store further and frantically scanned the crowds for her hot pink coat. Adrenalin began coursing through my body and I grew lightheaded as I began shouting her name, “Gwen! GWENDOLYN!” David was doing the same thing at the other end of the store. We kept looking at each other, hoping that the other had spotted Gwen or heard her little voice calling in response. Each glance was met with disappointment and increasing panic.

The store announced a Code Adam and locked the doors while we all searched for our daughter. The police were suddenly there and the people who had been locked in with us gawked in nosey horror. One woman shifted on her feet, rolled her eyes and sighed about the inconvenience of being locked in Wal-Mart while the police searched for my missing daughter.

I sat at a table and realized that as I sat, someone was whisking my little girl away from us. I painfully recalled all that I had learned about criminal patterns and behavior when I earned my degree in Criminology. I never expected those lessons to apply to me. I never expected to be sitting somewhere helplessly realizing that the longer my girl was gone, the likelihood of her return dwindled. I desperately tried to push away the thoughts of rape and homicide, but couldn’t. I began screaming her name. In my dream, I realized that I would probably never see her alive again. David tried to hold my arms and the police officers attempted to calm me down but I fought them and began to run through the dream Wal-Mart searching for Gwen…

I woke up with a gasp, covered in a thin film of sweat and saw my beautiful girl peacefully sleeping next to me in her purple Tinkerbell nightgown. Her freshly painted hot pink fingernails were inches from my face and she held Bun-Bun in the crook of her left arm. Slowly, my breathing returned to normal and I wiped the tears from my face. I rolled over and hugged my Cookie tightly, thanking God that I was able to wake up from that nightmare.

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