Lord only knows what kind of germs they have in Canada, but judging by the cold The Son brought back for me, they must be fairly manly and robust to survive the icy winter temperatures. I have been wiped out for a couple of days and I suppose my body was telling me in the only way it knew how that the time had come for an enforced rest. So yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I fell asleep during the day. It was rather like finding a little calm backwater having spent the last few weeks (months actually) in a mad whooshing slippery flume of activity that having pushed off over the edge and begun the ride, you have absolutely no chance of stopping. When I woke up, with sun streaming in through the windows, I felt it had been time well spent.
My Father was a great believer in the power of a midday nap. Every day he would retreat from work, put on the World at One on the radio and quietly drift off for “40 winks”. During this time, the rest of the family took a vow of silence. Father was not to be disturbed at any cost. When I was about 5 or 6, I did have to disturb him, following a rather exuberant game of chase with my younger brother which had resulted in my leaping off a bed onto an upturned 3-pin plug. Father opened one eye to take a quick look at the bloody heel. “Just put a bit of spetch on it”, as he closed his eye again. Spetch was his word for a plaster. I’ve never heard anyone else use it.
Last night, having done very little during the day, and having had a sleep, I realised that I might be awake until the wee small hours. I searched for a Comfort Book. Nothing demanding. Somewhat familiar. Something funny perhaps. I found just what I was looking for in the form of Garrison Keillor’s collection of essays, poems and short stories, “We are still married”. I came across a beautiful little piece I hadn’t read before called ‘The Traveler’, about Keillor’s 15-year old son returning home jet-lagged after his first trip to Europe. It made me think of The Son at 14 returning from a 3-week solo trip to Canada to stay with a family, and The Daughter after an amazing trip trekking in Nepal. They arrive back, safe and sound, and sleep almost as soon as they walk through the door. I have a treasured photo of The Son stretched full-length on the sofa fast asleep within minutes of getting home. As a parent you are a) relieved and b) amazed and c) hugely proud at the things your offspring have seen and done and experienced without you. Keillor catches the feeling perfectly. “The night when your child returns with dust on his shoes from a country you’ve never seen is a night you would gladly prolong into a week.”