The postcard arrived in the afternoon mail, addressed with a spidery script and a 5 cents stamp. Five cents? Been a long time since a stamp cost 5 cents. Nowadays, stamps start at 47 cents and up. This stamp was old, faded, with the image of a horse front and center. Or a unicorn. Hard to tell. On the postcard’s flip side, was the picture. A voice from above? Funny thing to put on a postcard.
Being in the midst of cooking and cleaning and soon-to-be-picking-up-kids from various activities, I tossed the postcard on the hall table and forgot about it. Hours later, kids home, meal eaten and kitchen cleaned, kids bathed, homeworked and in bed, floors swept, I headed into the living room to watch a few minutes of TV. I had some checks to write, emails to answer, and I could do them just as well in front of the TV as in bed. Hopefully, the TV would keep me from falling sleep, tumbling headfirst into the midst of my papers.
Even so, I began to yawn. Getting up at 4:30 am, working 12 hours then dialing up the chores of motherhood was exhausting. I was hoping, come summer,to find a place in the country and a simpler life. I’ve always wanted to plant a garden, to live off the land, but the right opportunity had never risen at the right time. I could do my consulting work from home as long as we had internet and lack thereof wasn’t very likely anywhere in this age.
A cottage in the country would be a dream come true.
Coming awake on the couch, I clicked off the TV, piled up the endless papers of my life, and headed off towards bed. As I stepped into the hallway, I stopped, rubbing my eyes sleepily.
A dream? Had to be. I was no longer standing in my entrance hall, but in a circular room with seven doors. Seven? I suddenly remembered the postcard. Automatically, I looked towards the hall table no longer there. he postcard, however, lay on the floor.
Fingers trembling, I snatched it up, read it again and then again. Seven doors to seven places, all places I knew and loved as a child. Places I had always dreamed I might go, step into a world so much realer than the faded world around me.
What should I do? I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to open one of those doors and step inside. I wanted to get lost. But what if I really got lost? What if I stepped into a door and was unable to return to my comfortably-used house on the edge of the city.
And if I did enter one door… which one? I loved the Narnia series as a child. Now, as an adult, I like them, but I didn’t love them anymore. One down.
Neverland. Ditto the last. I love the thought of Peter Pan but I never wanted to step into his world. Two down.
Wonderland? I love the thought of moving through a mirror into another world. When I was a child, I used to pretend I could looked through a mirror and see another world. The world I saw, however, was not Wonderland but the world inside my own head. Three.
Hogwarts? I like the idea of the books and I like that the books lured more kids to read, but honestly, I never read them all. Maybe by then, I was simply too old to open another window to another world. Or maybe that world was too simple for me, lacking the depth of the world alive inside me. Four.
Camelot. I love the image of Camelot. That time in history connects to my soul, at least the fantasy of Camelot. Realistically, I know I’d never last long without a shower and indoor toilet. Can’t go a day without washing my hair. Is this the legacy of my time? Five.
Middle Earth. This would be my door. I read the books in the sixth grade and fell in love. Strider…. my kind of guy. The images of Middle Earth, my ideal of Middle Earth, helped to shape the reality of the world inside me. Of all the fantasy worlds, this one was… me. The start of a life-long love.
Westeros. I know the books, but again, this was never my world. Too old, too set in my ways or too many worlds and I just couldn’t admit yet one more world into my multi-verse. I admit I have never any of the books. Being told over and over that I will love a book, stubborns me into not reading it.
What to do? Children here? Freedom there? Or this all might be a joke. A dream. Too many dreams have vanished upon my waking.
Too frightened to choose, I turn back to the entrance hall blooming around me like a bed of strangled weeds. I kept the postcard, tucked away in my tattered old copy of The Hobbit.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”