A Gift of Dreams

Imagine a New England seacoast village, ordinary enough in our traditions of dark-shuttered, white-painted old houses on quiet tree-lined streets, of the tall granite Civil War memorial on its grassy plot beside the Town Hall where the familiar clock bell called out the hours to reassure anyone who might be listening that life was proceeding as it ought to, where just down the street and around the corner another bell in the steeple of the Congregational Church rang on Sunday mornings to suggest to everyone why that might be so.

Imagine a tidy little grocery store, and a Post Office where the elders could reminisce on mild, sunny days on a stout bench long since worn shiny, and a drugstore with an old-fashioned soda fountain where you could meet friends on the way home from school or after work, and just a bit further down that same street, the shipyard we all knew was the last of many to carry on a centuries-old tradition of building wooden fishing vessels, and then imagine how easy it should be in such a place to understand what was expected of you, to work out your own choices for a life you’d never have to be ashamed of. Imagine how gently the ordinary progression of life there would permit you to trust you’d chosen well, to share in a tight-lipped assurance that most everyone around you had gotten it right.

Imagine being the uncommonly intelligent son of respectable parents in that village. Imagine learning all the rules, knowing that if you could follow them and work hard, life would come out right. Then imagine being unable to recognize yourself as part of an emotionally dysfunctional family, unwilling heir to their stern old New England Puritan doctrine, an unacknowledged gifted child who would never learn to meet what ought to have been unremarkable expectations.

That place is real, and you don’t have to imagine it any more.   Accept Robert A. Benjamin’s invitation to pay a visit through the pages of A Gift of Dreams and watch through a private window as he shares the day-to-day discoveries of what it feels like to grow up imperfectly ordinary.

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