When I was a kid, the Sears Wish Book catalogue was synonymous with
Christmas. Here was page after page chock full of dolls in velvet
dresses, plastic armored tanks, big kid board games, and every toy
imaginable and unimaginable --- the stuff of dreams. It was
probably the Wish Book that first taught me the art of dog-earing a
page of a book to mark something of import, a habit I still have.
For in the Wish Book was all the magical bounty that I had to ask
Santa to leave for me under the tree, that filled my dreams in
those post-Thanksgiving weeks counting down to Christmas. Isn't
that what Christmas is all about: the dreams of children? Children
of all ages, Richard Preston reminds us in his jewel of a book THE
BOAT OF DREAMS. "There's no age cutoff" where dreams are
THE BOAT OF DREAMS opens with this line: "The hauntings in our
trailer began before Christmas, 1969, in the months after we
learned that Dad had died in a rice paddy in Vietnam." The
narrator, thirteen-year-old Will, lives in a Glidemaster trailer in
New Harbor, Maine with his younger sister Lila and his widowed
mother, Sarah Ann. When William Foster, Sr. died, he left behind
his lobster boat, named after his wife, and his hopes that Will Jr.
would one day man the boat with him.
Life isn't easy for the Fosters. Sarah Ann works long hours,
struggling to bring home an income and refusing to sell her
husband's grounded boat, despite helpful offers from several local
fishermen. Will and Lila spend their afternoons alone, isolated in
the dark trailer, until one day --- on one of my dog-eared pages
--- they return from school to find someone had been in their home:
"The bathroom was steamy, and there was a smell of sweat in it. The
mirror had fogged up, and there was a dab of shaving cream on it;
and there was a hand print on the glass."
The someone we learn later is none other than Dexter --- Nicholas
Dexter Claus, that is --- and he is visiting because "there is a
need in this place ... there is a need for your dreams."
In less capa