Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Naps



(image: Kindergarten students taking a collective nap)

The OED online lists and defines a dozen different versions of "nap" as a noun, ranging from a type of wool fiber to a cup to "a baby's nap"--that is, a diaper (as it's called in the U.S.) or a "nappy," as the English call it. There's also "nap" as an adjective and five different versions of "nap" as a verb. Of course, some of these incarnations of nap are now obsolete, but nonetheless, who knew "nap" was such a various-and-sundry word? The OED did, it seems. One quotation is from Dickens:

DICKENS Dombey & Son (1848) xxiii. 240 He..refreshed his mind with a nap

Through 8th grade, I went to school in a town 12 miles away from where my family lived. We road the bus there, and on the bus were kids from age 6 to 18. Because the high-school "day" was longer than the first-grade one, the teacher had us first-graders take a nap on the floor of the classroom. I gather that still goes on in kindergartens, judging by the photo I found on the web (above). We had to sleep on these bizarre naugahyde mats, and I do wonder now about the hygeine-factor, but as to the comfort-factor: children can sleep anywhere.

Anyway, the main idea, I think, was for the teacher to take a break and restore some sanity to herself while she waited for 3:30 to roll around, whereupon we'd board the bus and travel 12 miles up the mountain--on a winding highway next to a canyon: kudos to the bus-driver (usually it was one Neil Foster), who never had an accident in the 8 years I rode the bus. I recall one flat-tire, which Mr. Foster promptly changed.

Napping may be a crucial key not just to a teacher of young children but to civilization itself. It might help Americans' sanity, for example, if the U.S. were to construct its culture more along the lines of Italy and Latin America, where the afternoon nap still seems to be central.

I was reading this book, Rules of Thumb, yesterday, and according to it, a one-hour nap is equivalent to three hours of sleep at night. The book didn't explain in what way the nap was equivalent, but I assume the authors meant that body and mind were provided as much restoration by a one-hour nap as three hours of night-sleep. I have no idea whether this information is accurate, and there is the famous REM-sleep-factor to consider, but I can say that naps seem to work just fine for me, when I can fit them in. The world just seems to be a little more manageable after one takes a nap. And then there's . . .the double-nap.

The Double-Nap

*

He woke up from a nap,

stared at light left by

a gap in curtains, thought

of ambition as an acquaintance

who never repays personal

loans, enjoyed the pleasure

of second weariness, the lure

of lassitude, and lapsed once

more into napping, which

he considered to be a most

constant, reliable friend

indeed, one with an interest

in his restoration. Oh, Lord,

thought the napping man,

subluminously: a day off,

crowned by a double-nap.

*

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

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