It’s up from the basement. It’s been hung in the side yard. And never have I been happier to see an inanimate object.

Our hammock is back, a harbinger not just of summer, but also of something far more vital: naps.

My late father was a world-class napper. He could snooze at will, and then bombs could be detonated around him with no effect whatsoever. Despite a mind that seemed to be in perpetual motion, my father had the great gift of being able to stop the world long enough to get refreshed. He always awakened from his naps sweeter and funnier than before.

My husband has the same uncanny ability. Three minutes in his recliner, and the man is gone. Phones may ring, grandchildren may crawl into his lap, thunder claps may shatter the sound barrier. The nap goes on.

I, alas, have a very different sleep profile.

Since early adulthood, I’ve needed perfect conditions: the absolutely right mattress, the ideal, climate-controlled room temperature, a pillow that knows my head, sheets that feel cool to the touch – all must be in place before I can begin the painstaking process of nodding off.

Then one Father’s Day, my husband received the single best gift a man of his temperament could get. It was a wonderful, sturdy, absolutely divine hammock, as green as the leaves on the trees that support it. My husband reveled in his new toy and slept in its welcoming embrace that very day.

I looked at the hammock, touched it, circled it and retreated. No way could I surrender to something that different from my carefully appointed bedchamber. No way could I bypass all my quirky requirements for sleep. Or could I?

Two years ago, on a spring afternoon that was rife with irritations and tensions, I eyed the hammock in the yard and decided I’d climb aboard. Test the waters – or, more precisely, the canvas – suspended from a wonderful old tree between earth and sky.

As I clambered into this hanging “nest,” I recalled our world traveler-daughter Amy’s description of how people in other cultures slept in hammocks as a regular practice. How she herself had done it and loved it for several weeks in Nepal.

And that’s the last thing I remember from that afternoon.

In my canvas crib, I slept like that proverbial baby, surrendering without benefit of air conditioning, pillow or proper mattress. And it was bliss. Pure bliss.

Since my discovery of hammock heaven, I’ve succumbed many more times, climbing into the hammock when the world is too much for me. I just let the hammock swing me into oblivion.

I’m a new initiate into the wonderful world of the afternoon nap. Yes, the kind that each of our high-energy daughters balked at taking, fighting every inch of the way when they were tiny – and then surrendering to that delicious sleep of the young.

I always maintained that they were never more beautiful than when they were still dewy as they awakened from those slumbers. Now, decades later, their mother has followed them.

I ignored everything: headlines, deadlines, the phone, the errands, the piles of work. And despite my long-standing insistence that I’m the classic “Princess and the Pea” sleeper with requirements that not even the finest hotels can meet, there I was, snoozing. Even the word “snoozing” delights a Type A like me.

In that hammock, I’ve somehow tuned out the sound of children playing, the low hum of the traffic nearby, and once, the arrival of my husband, who was searching the house for his lost wife until he discovered me in his Father’s Day hammock.

I felt sheepishly like Goldilocks in the land of the Three Bears, caught in a “who’s been sleeping in MY hammock?” variation. But my husband, who, in retirement is busier than he was when working, is seldom around most afternoons. So he was somehow convinced that my late afternoon nap was a temporary aberration. A fluke. He can’t imagine any competition from his insomniac wife.

And for now, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

August 2012
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