The Jenkerson Barn
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
I DREAM OF JUNIOR by Nancy Herold
Mike and I had been kicking around rebuilding the old barn but so many obstacles seemed to present themselves. There was financing, who we would find to do the restoration? The log cabin center needed special handling. How were we going to expand it to make it into a workable building?
I ruminated, I obsessed, I went back and forth and changed my mind so many times.
Whether it was Divine Intervention, a voice from the other side, or just sub-concious reassurance: I could never know. I just know at the peak of my indecision I would have a very lucid dream involving a conversation with my dead uncle.
“I’m telling you Sweetie, if you want this, it’s yours…it’s a done deal.”
“Look, you say that, but don’t really know that for sure….and why am I arguing with you in my dream?”.
“Because you don’t believe it and I’m here to convince you, so I’ll say it again: The barn restoration project is just waiting for you to say ‘Yes’. It’s a done deal–if you want it.”
I had dreamt of the deceased before but rarely had I had one this detailed. I knew I was dreaming in the dream and my Uncle Junior who passed in 2004, was now doing his best to convince me to move forward with rebuilding the century old barn that my grandfather constructed in 1906..
I could believe that he appeared as a representation of my subconscious mind, but what I didn’t understand was this:
Of all of my mom’s siblings I was the least engaged with Julius Robert Jenkerson, or Junior, as he was sometimes called. My Aunt Jackie passed on her love of music and taught me how to play it. Uncle Luther had joined forces with my dad to teach me to shoot, even volunteering his first firearm: a single shot .22 caliber rifle.
I remember that experience specifically because I was about 8 years old and had to prop the barrel up on a fencepost. Luther competed with my dad for the role of “loudest cheerleader” when I finally hit the tin can target.
My Grandparents, though quite old and in poor health, also made time to spend with me in the ways their physical limits would accommodate. My grandmother taught me embroidery and how to piece quilt blocks. My grand dad taught me how to plant potatoes and gave me my first experience gathering plants from the land. From age two I would go with him to wild craft herbs and roots which he used to make folk remedies.
It would have made sense if one of them had shown up in a dream. Yet, I did not dream of them.
I dreamt of Junior.
I discussed it with Mike, and he came up with the most plausible explanation: “Didn’t you say that J.R. really loved this land and had a deep attachment to it? You mentioned that he really wanted it to stay in the family too, right? I think that is why he showed up in your dreams: He could be the part of you that represents a deep commitment to this farm.”
I remembered my J.R.s letters. They were always about improvements to be celebrated or losses to be mourned on the farm.
As a child I only noticed he could be cranky, demanding and seemingly indifferent, I never knew if he was socially challenged or just marched to the beat of a different drum. Sometimes I wasn’t even sure if he liked me.
As the only member of the family to graduate high school, he loved to keep records. Later while cleaning out the farm house I would later find evidence that some part of me had got touched him in a way he could not express as a man of his time. I had found a scrap book he kept—one of many. This one was a running list of my accomplishments from grade school through college.
Maybe the connection was, deeper than I thought.
My first dream of Junior came after we had lived here about two years. I was having a crisis of faith and struggling with Mom’s declining health. In this dream—as in all others that would follow—I envisioned him much younger than my childhood memories. He was in his late 20’s with bright blue eyes. His words were encouraging. “Honey, you are doing such a wonderful job, we’re all so proud of you. We are so very grateful you made a life here and are rebirthing this place.”
In this most recent dream where he kept insisting the barn renovation was a “done deal”, he appeared the same—with one variation: When I finally agreed I would accept the challenge saying “yes” to the restoration in my dream, he donned a hard hat that appeared in his hand. The other hand suddenly held rolled up blueprints which he began to lay out on a table that had also appeared.
“I’m so glad you said ‘yes’,” The twinkle in his eye was even brighter as he seemed to vibrate with excitement. “This will be amazing….
“—and I’ll be with you every step of the way.”