A recurring pattern in my adult interpersonal relations is my need for an idealized male – or other object – as a defense against fears of maternal engulfment. The Greensboro dream might relate back to my childhood sense that elementary school attendance represented freedom from my mother. My mother used to tell a story about my first day of kindergarten. She walked me to school, and when we arrived at the threshold of the schoolyard, I turned to her and said (at age 4 1/2): “Go home, mommy, I don’t need you anymore!”
In retrospect, the jewelry box reminds me of the theme of the three caskets from Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice. In that play the fair and wise Portia is bound at her father’s bidding to take as her husband only that one of her suitors who chooses the right casket from among the three before him. The three caskets are of gold, silver and lead: the right casket is the one that contains her portrait. Two suitors have already departed unsuccessful: they have chosen gold and silver. Bassanio, the third decides in favor of lead; thereby he wins the bride, whose affection was already his before the trial of fortune. The suitor’s choice in The Merchant of Venice parallels my dream in that my parents appear to have chosen Dr. P— over me. It’s as if my parents were thinking, “Now that we have Dr. P—, we don’t need Gary anymore.” In some sense I was the loser in a competition, which suggests an Oedipal theme.