One morning, I was putting a cart of processed meat into the cold case when I heard Aerosmith’s “Dream On” begin playing. I had just priced a package of Eckrich polska kielbasa and was about to place it on the shelf when the song captured my attention.
I listened intently with a chilled package of ground meat substance in my grip. The song was interrupted a couple of times with, “Price check at lane 2” and,
“Customer service to courtesy desk” — but the slowly intensifying guitar strains kept me captivated. By the time Steven Tyler reached the dramatic chorus, I was singing softly under my breath into a polish sausage, as if it were a microphone. “Dream on, dream on, dream on, dream until your dream comes true.”
I looked around. Nobody was watching. I placed the sausage on the shelf.
I priced another one and pulled it from the box. “Sing with me, sing for the year, sing for the laughter, sing for the tears.” The song was cut short by a recorded message announcing the store specials on boneless chicken breast, Bounty paper towel, Kraft macaroni and cheese and jumbo seedless oranges. I put the second sausage “microphone” on the shelf.
I went back to work loading the case with sausages, bacon, cold cuts and hot dogs — but I kept hearing Aerosmith in my head over and over. “Dream on, dream on, dream on.” Standing in front of the lunchmeat case at the grocery store, holding a package of pickled ring bologna, I couldn’t help but think, “This isn’t exactly the dream I had envisioned for myself.”
I don’t really dislike my job. It’s challenging, but not too demanding. The hours are good and the pay’s OK. It’s just that, when you’re involved in real life, sometimes you forget about those dreams that got buried in the chaos of life and it takes a rock ‘n’ roll song to remind you of them.
Occasionally, my daughters, Evien and Maggie, will ask me what I wanted to be when I was a kid. What they really want to know is what I wanted to do when I was 7 and 5 years old, like they are. My reply is always the same : I wanted to be a soldier.
When I was a kid, I had an olive-drab army uniform that I wore until I could no longer button it. I had G.I. Joe dolls with real hair and a Jeep. I had plastic toy soldiers that I set up in elaborate battle scenes.
I thought being a soldier would be the coolest, noblest, most exciting thing a person could do with their life — until I became a teenager and talked to an actual Army recruiter. Then the military seemed like the scariest and most dangerous job on the planet.
So I buried that dream.
To this day, not joining the military is perhaps my biggest regret, because I think I could have learned some valuable life lessons in the service; lessons that I had to learn much later, like how to work with others as a team and how to respect authority — problems that lingered long into my adulthood.
Other dreams rose up and faded almost as quickly as they appeared. I wanted to be the heavyweight champion of the world, but I lacked the size. I wanted to play guitar in Hank Williams Jr.’s band, but lacked the skill. I wanted to witness the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl, but I quickly learned that some dreams are actually just fantasies.
Some dreams appear out of necessity. I was 19 years old, and I had a job in the grocery store and a new car (new to me). In less than a year, I found myself married with a baby. Three years later, I had two kids and a mortgage. At that point, I dreamed that I’d make enough money to pay my bills every month on a meat cutter’s wage. I found myself with a lot of worries for a guy who just wanted to have a little fun with a red-headed girl.
I also dreamed of being a writer — a real honest-to-goodness author with speaking engagements and book signings. I took some college classes, won a few writing awards, and then my first wife left me. I put my dreams on the shelf in an attempt to regain my sanity.
A few years later, I started over with a new wife, two new kids and an even bigger mortgage. I found myself with a lot of cares and concerns for a guy who just wanted to have a little fun with a blonde girl.
Sometimes dreams give way to more important dreams.
Now I dream that all of my children will grow up to be well-adjusted productive members of society. I dream that they will have a lot of self-confidence and that they will see the contribution that their father made to help foster their dreams.
But every few days while I’m cutting meat, grinding hamburger or stocking Eckrich polska kielbasa, I’ll hear Aerosmith singing “Dream On.” It always stops me in my tracks and I wonder if I’ll ever have the time or ambition to write the book I’ve always wanted to write.
I love my family and that’s the most important thing to me right now — but whenever I hear the song, I always sing softly under my breath, “Dream on, dream on, dream on, dream until your dreams come true.”
— By Grant Berry