Dream House by
(36 Stories)

Prompted By Dreams

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/ Stories

Barbie’s dream house it ain’t. I open the door and enter a shadowy hallway that leads to a cavernous yet churchlike room featuring a massive wall of books along one side, a steep staircase running diagonally across it. One time I climb the stairs and go through a door at the top that leads to another room of sorts, more a lush garden, sunlit and shadowy, with a burbling stream. It’s idyllic and I remain there until I wake up.

We often dream of houses, and of stairways…they’re classic symbols. We enter, exit, ascend and descend the various layers of our psychology, psyche, soul.

Another time I wander down a cobblestone path alongside the house that leads to a set of stairs that take me down to a dank basement. I’m alone and no one knows I’m there. Tentative and fearful, I explore a maze of short tunnels and twisting, topsy-turvy stone steps. Some passageways lead to locked doors or dead ends and I turn around and try another path. I finally discover the way up, a hidden staircase that clearly hasn’t been used in a long time.

Yet another time the police come to the house and escort me to a concealed cellar where I have stashed contraband connecting me to a heinous crime I’d forgotten I had committed. I am found out, guilty as sin, and once I wake up, it takes me days — literally — to assure myself that it was only a dream, that I have committed no such crime.

We often dream of houses, and of stairways…they’re classic symbols. We enter, exit, ascend and descend the various layers of our psychology, psyche, soul. My house has many rooms, each with its own eclectic decor. Of course I interpret this recurring dream with its ever changing landscape as a metaphor for my life.

Although I haven’t dreamed of that house in which I wandered and stumbled, by turns scared and enthralled, in at least twenty years, in analyzing it, I find comfort and assurance and an acceptance of myself. My way has not been the coherent, cohesive path that so many of the people I know, so many of the people I love, have taken. Not that their lives have been ordinary; like all lives, each one is extraordinary in its own way. But just that theirs read like novels, even epic novels, with a discernible narrative arc; mine reads more like a book of short stories, each with its own arc. And that’s okay — I’m a big fan of short stories!


Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: funny, moving, well written


  1. Wonderful BB, as so often your story is funny, intriguing and moving!
    Your life indeed seems like a series of short stories and so glad you’re sharing them with us!

  2. Marian says:

    Love the description of your house dreams, Barb. It must be scary to think you have committed a crime with no idea what it was! I have house dreams as well, and almost all of them involve a melding of a rented cottage and my house on Oak Court (featured in several stories) in one town, Menlo Park, CA. I have no idea why this particular town is featured. Maybe your daughter can tell me …

    • Dreams are fascinating, aren’t they! It’s impossible to write them off as meaningless electrical brain impulses when they either directly reflect something that’s going on in our lives or indirectly do the same symbolically or metaphorically. In those cases it’s fairly simple to see how they’re helping us cope. But when we can’t figure them out, what purpose do they serve? My daughter always tells me that I know what my dream means if I think about it, so maybe you know but you don’t know you know. Hope that helps. (LOL!!)

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Wow, Barb, I love this story. Houses with staircases that may lead to something beautiful or something terribly frightening — your description of these dreams is so vivid and quite interesting to read and contemplate. The short stories that combine to create the book of your life are unique, which makes them fascinating for prosaic folks like me who dream about things like not studying for a test.

    • Thanks, Laurie, and you must be kidding — I can think of many ways to describe you and I assure you prosaic isn’t one of them! Your life is anything but, and your writing reflects that. I’m a huge fan, in case you haven’t figured that out! 🙂

  4. Suzy says:

    Barb, your house dreams are so interesting! I love how at different times you go up or down or around the house. Does it always seem to be the same house? The dream about the heinous crime that you have to assure yourself you haven’t committed seems especially vivid — and scary! How great that you think of your life as a book of short stories. We have seen some of the fascinating chapters, can’t wait to learn about more of them.

    • Thanks, Suzy…and yes, it always feels like the same house. I love sharing my stories here, and reading others’ — how lucky are we that we’re able to do this!? Until the last, what, fifteen years or so, the only way to share our stories was to find a publisher. What a great site this is!

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    This is so interesting in so many ways, Barb. Your twisting, winding narrative of the house, changing on each encounter, sometimes forbidding, other times lush. Then you share with us that it’s been 20 years since you’ve had this dream, in all its varieties; the paths and the various twists and turns your life had taken. It has not been a straight stairway, but a series of short encounters. Your writing is always so interesting and you have gifted this community with so much of yourself. Thank you for another interesting aspect.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Fascinating story, Barb. I don’t recall ever having a house dream, but, as you describe it, it all makes such good sense — at least in the way that dreams make sense at all. That it is always the same house and yet has so very many different rooms seems like such a clear metaphor for one’s life and all the paths — both wonderful and scary — one can take in it.

    Thanks so much for sharing your “house” with us!

  7. Barbara, your vivid descriptions of your journeys through, around, still and moving are captivating, and brought up some dreams I have had in the past about movement, stillness, tension and rest, fear and joy. Thank you for sharing these images/feelings! ❤️

  8. Barbara, loved your house and home dreams. I have my own variations, but particularly enjoyed the contraband and heinous crimes. Better you should dream them than do ’em. I was particularly moved by your final paragraph comparing the arcs of people’s lives to your own anthology of short stories. Very thoughtful and articulate. Nice. Thanks.

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