Before I started school I often bumped along with my father in his old Dodge truck to see his customers.
I knew that after we stopped for lunch we would soon stop again.
The second stop was always under a large tree, preferably a live oak. I think my dad knew every spot where a shade tree draped its limbs over a parkable spot.
It was nap time.
Supposedly it was nap time for me — since little kids were supposed to have naps — but it was he who fell asleep.
I wasn’t allowed to get out of the truck during nap time, so I would amuse myself with one of the Little Golden Books, a couple of little soldiers or some other toy I had brought. Sometimes I’d play with a nut left on the floorboard.
I got bored, but not sleepy.
Periodically I would look at Dad, with his head kicked back, and wonder when he was going to wake up.
Though my father answered my endless stream of questions while we were riding, nap time was supposed to be silent.
I’ll admit that a few times I made a little noise when I thought it was past time for us to move on.
My father was the master of the noon nap. It’s one of many of his masteries that I never could make a skill of my own.
The closest I came was when I was sleep-deprived in basic training and learned to catch moments of near sleep at every opportunity.
When I had to give up the regular rides with my father so I could start my formal education in first grade, I found I still hadn’t escaped noon nap time.
As soon as we got back to class from lunch recess, we were instructed to put our heads down on our desks.
Some kids went to sleep. Later I knew guys who could fall asleep at their desks in high school, but the concept of sleeping in a school desk with head on folded arms always eluded me.
As with my dad’s nap time in the truck, silence was imposed by Mrs. Landry, my first-grade teacher. It was one of that wonderful woman’s few flaws.
With heads on arms, we would catch the eye of sleepless comrades and make faces. The key was not to laugh, though it seemed somebody always failed to stifle a giggle at least once during nap time.
Thinking back to my father’s generation, I realize daily naps were much more common then.
My Uncle Bert would always pull his hat over his eyes when he took his nap in the tire shop or on the boat when we were fishing. My grandfather was a skillful noon napper as were his sons who worked with him on the farm. Our neighbor, Russell — another farmer — snored when he napped.
In a world that’s grown busier, I wonder if the noon nap has all but disappeared.
I was never any good at it, but maybe it would be nice to try again to learn the skill.