Monday, June 16, 2008

The Science of Napping

I love naps. The very first nap I remember, although I know I must have taken a few as a toddler, I was lolling suspended a few feet above the ground in a sheet Morgan had secured to two parallel cables of the clothesline like a hammock in the backyard on Sorensen, 50 miles from here. I must have weighed next to nothing, brown skin stretched over flexible child bones, topped with a crop of white hair. I remember being surprised at having fallen asleep. What had I missed? Because of that fear I rarely napped, although I remember dozing after being commanded to "pretend to nap" by Morgan and Carrie, in their "house", the wood shed in June's backyard that was just torn down this month to make room for more snap peas and carrots, 50 miles from here. I remember the dirt-caked pink and white plastic of the Easy-Bake Oven and tiny Tupperware mugs. I was supposed to be playing "the baby" and I must have been all of four years old.

I remember napping on June's trampoline with her cocker spaniel, Shamrock, smelling green onions and honeysuckle in the garden nearby. If you wanted him up there with you, you had to get on your hands and scabby knees in the grass so Shammy could use you for a jumping block to get on the tramp. I forever had great long welts on my back from his claws. I may have scars. You knew it was going to hurt, but you did it anyway. Napping with a dog who isn't restless is pure bliss. Ditto napping with cats. These days we nap on blankets in the sun on June's familiar plush lawn whenever we have a family get-together.

I remember napping in a tent at Bear Lake, 50 miles from here in another direction, the soft sloshing of its miniature tide and the buzz of boats and flies. I remember napping in Grandma's yellow bedroom with afternoon sunlight pouring in the west window, holding her hand. Napping on the bus on the way home to San Diego after a field tournament with my high school's marching band, folded up in my seat with my knees wedging me in place, my head on someone's shoulder, Mom's or Kym's or Rob's. Drumsticks beating on the seat backs, muted. I remember napping the morning after a night shift at the cab company, snoozing on my twin bed in my apartment on 13th street in Imperial Beach with the palms shushing outside the window and the ocean a distant growl. If you looked out the window you'd see blooming poinsettia and bursting white orange blossoms. The birds always sounded very distant there, and before I came completely awake I felt I was in a jungle.

I used to nap on the beach with the gulls shrieking and the waves crashing; this is also how Mom got so sunburned on one vacation in San Diego before we moved there that she had to wear a mu mu for a week. I napped one afternoon on a solitary drive from Wyoming to San Diego after I was living there alone, tipping Monte's front seat back, a cradle, windows open, doors locked, at a rest area in the desert where women from a reservation were selling bright bead and stone jewelry laid out on blankets in the sand. I will never forget how the polished silver caught the sun.

Napping in this house is like napping in a war zone, what with the noise from upstairs and music from the basement and the kids next door, laughing and screeching outside my open kitchen window. You have to feel safe to nap. You have to be trusting. It's different at night when the whole world's asleep. When napping by day, the whole world goes on around you.

I fell asleep after work while waiting for Mom this winter, she herself napping between her tax appointment and her drive home; I was curled on Morgan's gloriously overstuffed couch with my face to the back, buried in pillows. Although asleep, I heard Morgan typing and the click of her mouse as she worked at her computer, drafting in her office down the hall. I heard Mom's gentle snoring and a radio playing quietly, jazzy commercials, and the pine tree whistling outside the plate glass bay window. I felt Daisy press an insistent, wet Lab snout into the back of my head (which is why you face the back of the couch) and heard car doors slam across the street and at some point I felt Kelly carefully cover me up with a blanket. Even with all this activity, I slept better than I had in months, however briefly, completely at peace with the world.

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