Summary: A child’s innocent question leads to memories for Ben and Adam, and a special moment shared between three generations of Cartwrights.
Rating: K, Word Count: 2891
A Dream Come True
“Pa, how do you make a dream come true?”
Adam Cartwright stopped his bookkeeping and rolled his eyes upward to see his youngest son standing nervously in the doorway of his office. After noting the late hour on the clock, he took a deep breath and released it slowly as he set down his pen. His seven year old son had been tucked into bed a couple of hours earlier along with the rest of his children, so Adam took advantage of the quiet to prepare for some upcoming negotiations.
However, his son’s innocent question triggered many memories for Adam. After closing the folders, he steepled his fingers and lifted one brow as he eyed his son.
“What has you asking such a question when you’re supposed to be sleeping?”
Aaron bobbed from one bare foot to the other at his father’s admonition. “I’m sorry Pa but it was something Grandpa said tonight at dinner that got me thinking about dreams.”
Adam’s lips curved into a half smile as he recalled his father telling a few stories of their travels West. Completing his smile, he swiveled his leather chair around and patted his knee, an invitation for Aaron to enter the room and sit in his father’s lap. Once the boy was settled with Adam’s arms around him, Adam thought he knew where his son’s question was heading.
“Let me guess, you’re wondering how Grandpa made his dream of settling out here come true?”
Aaron’s head rubbed against Adam’s chest as he nodded.
“By never giving up and a lot of hard work, and keeping it in his heart.”
Aaron’s silence puzzled Adam so he changed direction just a bit. “Is it possible that you have a dream, son? Something you’d like to see come true?”
Aaron looked away from his father, his fingers becoming busy with a button on his nightshirt. “Kind of, I guess.” He turned back to his father, his brown eyes full of wonder, and his father’s, patient and perhaps twinkling a bit, Aaron couldn’t be sure. “I want to have a big family, like this one, and I want to build things like you do, Pa. I also want to, well…no, I can’t. You’ll think it’s silly.” He looked down at his wiggly feet trying to hide his embarrassment.
Adam stroked his son’s wavy hair. “I promise, son, that anything you think is important I do not think is silly. If you don’t want to tell me right now, that’s fine.”
Aaron didn’t look up as he timidly shared his deepest desire. “I want to be a writer, Pa.” His head snapped around to see his father’s bright eyes and smile. “Oh?”
Courage filled Aaron’s heart. “Yes sir. I want to write about all the things our family has done. I think it all needs to be in a book.”
Adam’s smile turned into a grin as he ruffled his son’s chocolate brown hair that was much like his mother’s. “That’s a very good dream to have, son.” He tapped his son’s nose. “You’re on your way, judging by the essays you’ve written in school and your own stories you like to tell the family.”
“Yeah, but I get teased about it at school. The boys there think I’m a sissy for writing all the time and not playing games with them. Besides, it’s nothing like Grandpa’s dream of moving West.”
Adam moved Aaron off his lap so he could look straight at him. “Aaron, everyone has their own dreams – things they want to do, places they want to see. Don’t let anyone tell you your dreams are foolish or not right or not big enough. But I do think it might be wise for you to spend some of your recess time playing and not sitting. Hmm?”
Aaron knew what that single raised eyebrow meant. “Yes sir. I guess so. Pa, did you have any dreams? I mean when you were my age?”
Adam pursed his lips. Oh what to tell this inquisitive child of his. “I’ve had a lot of different dreams, Aaron. However, one dream never seemed to go away although it changed a lot through the years.” When it was obvious Aaron was about to ask, Adam rested his finger on his son’s lips then walked him out to the hall. “No more tonight. But I’ll tell you what. Why don’t we go for a ride tomorrow afternoon? Then I’ll tell you about some of my dreams and maybe together we can answer your original question a little bit better.”
Aaron’s eyes lit up. “That sounds great. Thanks Pa.” He gave his father a hug and trotted up the stairs to bed.
Adam leaned against the door frame lost in thought until he heard another familiar voice behind him.
“Which dream are you thinking of sharing with our son, my husband?”
Adam snared Ana’s hand and guided her to his side. “Which one am I not thinking of is a more accurate question. But I’d like to celebrate a dream I had that you made come true.”
Ana snuggled closer and giggled. “Oh, and which dream would that be, my love?”
Adam kissed the top of her head and trailed kisses downward until they reached her lips. “I think you know.” He nudged her toward the steps. “I’ll be up as soon as I close up the house.”
He watched her glide up the stairs after she gave him a sultry glance, then he returned to the desk to put his papers away and turn out the lamp. When his eye caught the picture of his mother on the bookcase behind his chair, Adam paused. Wistfully, he silently thanked her for encouraging his father’s dreams.
After Adam and Ana had had their time of sharing their love, he lay on his back with her snuggled into his side sleeping soundly. Absentmindedly playing with the end of her braid, he let his mind drift back to Aaron’s question, but this time it was his own voice he heard over the sounds of a creaking wagon rolling along a trail leading south from Oregon, “Pa, how do you make dreams come true?”
He was driving the wagon while his pa was writing in his journal. When he asked his question, Ben closed the book and stared at some trees in the distance.
“Pa, did you hear me?”
“Sorry, son. Yes, I heard you but I had to think about your question. I’ll tell you what. We’ll stop at those trees up ahead for the night and after dinner I’ll try to answer that question for you. Alright?”
“Sure Pa. Say can you take the reins? I’m arms are gettin’ tired.”
Ben smiled and took over driving the wagon. At times Adam seemed so grown up but Ben had to keep reminding himself that he was only seven.
After dinner Adam cleaned up the dishes while Ben put Hoss to bed. When Ben finally appeared and settled against a tree, Adam plopped into his lap and leaned back against his strong chest. As father and son watched the stars come out, Ben and Adam took turns naming them. It was times like these that Adam cherished the most.
After a while Adam took a breath and forged ahead with a question that had been niggling in his young mind.
“Hmm, yes Adam?”
“Do you remember your promise? You said you’d tell me how you make dreams come true.”
“So I did.” Adam felt his father’s chest rise and fall as he took a deep breath. After another moment of silence Ben responded, “Well, son, that’s not an easy question to answer. I think one thing would be hard work. If there’s something you want badly enough, you need to be willing to work for it.”
Adam puzzled over that answer then asked another question, “Are you working on your dream right now?”
“Yes, son, you and I are both working on it. The hard work in this case is the traveling we have to do and the work I have to do sometimes to earn money for the supplies. Does that make sense?”
“I think so. But Pa, when will you know that your dream has come true? The one we’re working on right now?” Adam twisted around to study his pa’s face.
Ben chuckled. “That’s something we won’t know till we get there. You see, some dreams take a long time to come true and I guess this is one of them.” Although he felt a pang of guilt over the years it had taken to get his far, he hid it by ruffling his son’s dark hair and scooting him off his lap. “It’s time for bed, Adam. Go get in the wagon while I settle the fire.
“Yes Pa.” Adam’s response dripped with disappointment when the time with his father came to an end, especially the talk about dreams, but he had to admit he was getting a bit sleepy. Maybe tomorrow he could ask some more questions and perhaps tell his Pa about his own dreams.
Adam smiled to himself with that thought as he silently climbed into the wagon and snuggled beside his brother under the blankets. Soon Ben climbed in to make sure Adam was settled, listened to his prayers, then lay down beside him. As he drifted off to sleep, he knew the conversation with Adam wasn’t over but at least he had some time to prepare for the next group of questions.
The next morning as they drove toward a small town on the horizon, Ben was not prepared for the questions his son threw at him and they appeared to not have anything to do with dreams. He knew Adam was bright and tried to encourage his learning as best he could, but now his son started asking about how wagon wheels worked, how houses got built, and what kind of house they would live in when they got to where they were going. By the time the wagon came to a stop in front of a livery, Ben was exhausted from trying to answer his son’s questions. One thing he felt certain of was that his son would make a good helper once they arrived at their destination.
That evening father and son were once again looking at the myriad of stars in the black sky that darkened the rolling hills they’d just crossed.
While Ben was enjoying the silence, he was concerned that Adam was too quiet.
“Adam, are you alright?”
“You seem so quiet tonight.”
“Just thinkin’. Did you know that Tommy from that last wagon train we were part of told me that the stars represent people’s dreams?”
“Really. And what do you think about that?”
“I didn’t believe it, but Tommy said his pa said that. Then he said there’s about as many dreams as there are stars. Do you think that’s true Pa?”
“I don’t know about stars representing dreams but I think the number makes sense. People have all kinds of dreams and sometimes more than one. Some dreams come true quickly, others take a long time, and sometimes dreams don’t seem to come true at all. Where is all this heading, son?”
“Well, I, um, I got a lot of dreams in my head Pa, and I don’t rightly know what to do with ‘em all.”
“I see.” Ben now understood what was behind all Adam’s unusual questions during the day. The boy was inquisitive and always asked why things were or how things worked. Ben took a deep breath and asked his own question. “Would you like to share a few of those dreams with me?”
Adam twisted his fingers into knots. “I guess so. Sometimes when I sleep at night, I have all kinds of shapes and colors dancing in my head. Fancy buildings and homes,” he giggled a bit, “and even wagon wheels. All I know is that I want to know how things work so I can build things. Today, while I was watchin’ Hoss in the wagon, I used some of the paper you gave me to draw what I thought our house might look like one day. And maybe one day I’ll get married and have a family like we have now and build my own house.”
His mouth clamped shut when he noticed his father’s far away expression, figuring he’d said the wrong things. His excitement was like the sails of a ship filling with wind, but just as quickly that wind died out and he was left feeling adrift as his father remained silent and distant. He rolled out of his pa’s lap and stood up. “Guess I’ll go to bed now.”
Ben stared up at the stars realizing how much they needed to find a place to put down roots. He’d grown painfully aware that Adam was talking more and more about when they would stop. Then he felt his lap grow cold and was yanked from his musings. “Bed so soon? By my count you shared at least five dreams. Don’t you want to pick out a star for each one?”
Adam jumped back into Ben’s lap and started naming some stars in the sky. For another hour father and son shared more of their dreams, some heartfelt and some they felt were rather silly. It was one of the most memorable nights both had shared.
A light wind picked up just as two men and a young boy rode out from the trees and dismounted on a plateau overlooking their homes. Ben and Adam shared wide smiles as they watched Aaron scamper along the edge taking in the magnificent view from every angle.
“Pa! Grandpa! I can see both houses from here and the lake way over there. Are those your cows down there, Grandpa?”
Ben captured his grandson in his strong arms as he ran past, then knelt beside him. “No son, those are your father’s horses. The cattle are further away and can’t be seen from here.”
Adam made himself comfortable on a flat boulder and watched his son and father with mirth in his eyes. Marrying Ana was one dream that had come true, and this was another – sharing his children with his father.
“Aaron, I’m so glad you invited me to come along today. I understand from your father that you have some questions about the stories I shared last night.”
Aaron dropped down onto a log and looked up at his grandfather. “Well, it got me wondering about how dreams come true. Then I told Pa some of my dreams last night. Did he tell you what they were?”
“No, but I’d like to hear them if you’d like to share them with me.”
“I want to be a builder like Pa, but I also want to be a writer. I just don’t know which one to choose.” He propped his head on his hands.
Ben lowered himself to the ground after giving Adam a knowing look. “Hmm, this sounds very familiar.”
Aaron’s head popped up and his eyebrows rose in an all-to-familiar way. “It does?”
“Yep, seems I recall another young boy about your age who had so many dreams he didn’t quite know what to do with them all.”
“Yeah, me.” Adam shifted his son to his lap after moving over to settle on the log. “Take a look at this.”
Aaron took a discolored and worn piece of paper from his father. He carefully unfolded it and stared at the crude collection of boxes and triangles. Adam reached over his shoulder to turn the paper around. “Now, tell me what that looks like.”
Aaron puzzled over it until he finally recognized the shapes. He lifted the drawing into the air and shifted his gaze between it and one of the houses below him.
“I know, I know!” He burst from Adam’s lap and faced his pa and grandpa. “It’s your house, Grandpa, right? Is it?”
“Adam, would you care to answer your son?” Ben winked and was not completely sure if he saw his stoic son blush.
“Yes, it’s Grandpa’s house. I drew that when I was about your age. It’s what I saw in my head as the place I wanted to live once Pa, Hoss and I finally quit traveling.”
Aaron studied the picture once more before finally giving his pa a look of pure admiration. “So you built the house you dreamed about.”
“Well, not exactly. A lot of other things happened before we had that house.”
“Pa, will you tell me that story, right now, please?”
“Sure, but first let’s set out our lunch and I’ll tell the story while we eat. And Grandpa has to help tell his part.” Adam nudged his father in the ribs and gave him a sly wink.
With eagerness all around, three generations of Cartwrights rested against white boulders on the edge of a pine forest and shared their dreams of building the Ponderosa for future generations to enjoy. Ben and Adam couldn’t resist sharing smiles and winks as young Aaron’s eyes lit up like fireworks at all their shared dreams.
Inspired by the song A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman
Tags: Adam Cartwright, Ben Cartwright
Other Stories by this Author
- A Stitch in Time (by AC1830)
- Circle of Life (by AC1830)
- Angel of Love (by AC1830)
- Hop Sing’s Fortune Cookies (by AC1830)
- A Special Day (by AC1830)