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Darrell Huckaby: Extolling the virtues of an afternoon nap

I have recently made a discovery about naps. They are good for the soul. If you aren't a habitual napper you should give it a try. You are really missing something.

Don't just take my word for it. As a napper, I am in good company. Ronald Reagan was known for taking daily naps and he defeated communism. Winston Churchill was a famous napper, too. Sir Winston went whole hog. He would darken the room, put on his pajamas and climb into bed, every afternoon. He once said that the belief that you would accomplish less if you napped during the day was "a foolish notion held by people with no imagination."

If I have nothing else, I have imagination.

I hated naps when I was a little kid. I learned early on in life that my dozing off for a few minutes in the middle of the day was for someone else's benefit, not mine. In first and second grade we had to take naps, too. Thinking back, naptime was the closest thing to a planning period my teacher ever got. Every day after lunch, when we were nice and full of Mrs. Effie Boyd's fried chicken or roast beef -- we had really good lunches at Porterdale School -- Miss Ruby Jordan would have us "put our heads down."

There just wasn't a good way to get comfortable sitting in those little wooden chairs with our heads on the little wooden desks. I would usually leave one eye partially open -- the better to peek at Vickie Savage or Kay Smith -- and try to whisper to Gary Stowe. Eventually I would doze off for a few minutes and would, invariably, wake up with drool running out of the side of my mouth and onto my chin.

They quit letting us take naps in the third grade because we had to learn long division and cursive writing and there just wasn't any time to waste during the school day.

After second grade I don't think I took another nap until I graduated from college and took a job at Bert Adams Scout Reservation. I was a Jamison man. Now I slept straight through a lot of days when I was in college -- because I had stayed up for most of the previous night -- but I don't think those occasions constituted naps, per se.

The summer after college I went to work on camp staff, which was a 24/7 job. We're talking about fatigue down to the bone by the end of a camp staff week. Every Saturday afternoon I would come home to my mama's house to wash my clothes. Every Saturday afternoon I would turn on the baseball Game of the Week and lie down on the couch and within five minutes I would be sound asleep. Those were glorious afternoons, understand.

Have you ever experienced that feeling when you are a little bit asleep and a little bit awake? You can hear what is going on around you but you can't respond. You try to move your limbs but they are leaden. You can't wiggle a muscle. That was me every Saturday afternoon of my camp career -- and my camp career lasted about seven summers.

After that I was pretty much done with naps for the next 30 years. I got married and we had kids and one thing led to another -- or perhaps I got married and one thing led to another and then we had kids -- at any rate, with a wife as demanding as mine and kids to keep up with and always having at least two or three jobs -- I always have kept a lot of irons in the fire -- naps just weren't a luxury I could afford. I have hardly had time to sleep at night.

But I have learned an important lesson over the past six months or so -- or actually a couple of them. For one, I am not Superman. I'm not even Clark Kent. I am also not the Energizer Bunny. My batteries do run down and when they do, I have to recharge them.

I have also learned that a lot of the stuff that I have always assumed had to get done, really didn't.

Nowadays I come home from work just about every afternoon and take off my shoes, push back in my recliner, and immediately fall asleep. Sometimes, if there is a baseball game on television, I will turn it on, just for old times' sake, and let the drone of the announcer's voice help me drift away to Lala Land. It's not really necessary though.

An hour or so later -- sometimes half an hour -- I am ready to finish out the day. Naps are a true tonic. Without the red cape, though. I'm still not Superman.

But when I have had my nap, I am at least on par with Jimmy Olsen and sometimes, while I'm napping, I dream about a beautiful woman who looks a lot like Lois Lane.

Try it. You'll like it. You can thank me later.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.