Tilting At Windmills: The Nap
Published: June 2nd, 2023
By: Shelly Reuben

Tilting at Windmills: The Nap

Although I’ve never felt like having an illicit love affair, stealing cars, or embezzling money, the temptation to sneak off and take a nap is too great to resist.

Yes. Yes. I know that I am essentially a superficial and frivolous person, and that napping might well fit under the category of “Other Interests” on my resume, but mightier and more ponderous souls than I have elevated napping to a worthy endeavor, to wit in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore –

While I nodded, nearly NAPPING (my caps), suddenly there came a tapping

As of something gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”

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Thus, I figure, if the father of the mystery novel can take a nap, so can I.

My credentials as a napper probably date back to nursery school, grape juice, and fuzzy blankets, but my first real memories of such date back to my teenaged years, where I grew up in a dream house on Jackson Avenue in Glencoe, Illinois – the ideal environment for an aspiring writer to devour books, fight with her siblings about whose turn it is to do the dishes, and formulate Big Dreams.

My father fermented cucumbers to make pickles (they exploded) in the finished basement of that brick, three-story Tudor house. It had a large kitchen with alternating cabinet doors that my mother had painted pink and white, to create a cheerful harlequin effect. My brother once kept a chameleon (it died) in a cage in that kitchen. It was a place where we kids could sit on the counter tops to chat with Mom or watch her cooking, and like all such happy places, it was the hearth of the home.

There was another hearth, though. A real one, in the living room, opposite lead glass diamond shaped windows that reflected our fireplace’s flames. This was not only as good as any dream living room could be; it was better. Because between the windows and the back of the blue silk sofa, there was a long window-seat where a girl could read, daydream, or hide. Two matching armchairs flanked the sofa, and a long, marble-topped coffee table stood in front of it.

Under all of this furniture was a thick, coral-colored area rug.

Now pay attention, because here’s the best part.

Almost every day between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m., bright sun (you could see dust motes dancing in the shafts of light) used to stream through the lead glass windows and land on the carpet in a perfect rectangle, slightly wider and longer than the length and breadth of my teenaged body, into which I could perfectly fit and go to sleep.

Not a nap in a dark room with the curtains drawn.

Not a nap under an umbrella on a beach.

A nap, right in the middle of foot traffic, on the floor, between a coffee table and a fireplace, in blazing sun, in the middle of the afternoon.

I think dogs and cats like to sleep in puddles of sunlight, but I’m not sure about other human beings.

All throughout my teens, I took naps in that patch of sunlight. I don’t remember dreaming or even daydreaming there, but ... who knows? Maybe my creative process today dates back to those naps way back then.

I now live in a cute little Colonial I call my “Leave It to Beaver house.” I have a sweet living room with a bay window into which is tucked a green velvet swivel chair. To my left is a fireplace. Under foot is a huge ottoman. And across from me is a big, comfy, stuffy sofa.

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Sunlight from my bay window doesn’t reach all the way across the room to the sofa so, as with all things having to do with the passage of time, my habits have changed. My desire to takes naps, however, has not.


A sofa (instead of a carpeted floor).

A short break from the labor of putting pen to paper (instead of from daydreaming).

And a nap.

“What is a nap?” I hear myself asking myself.

Well, according to my favorite (1934) edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary:

NAP. Verb. To have a short sleep; to doze; hence, figuratively, to be in a careless, unguarded state.

NAP. Noun. A short sleep; a doze; a siesta.

At around 3:00 p.m. yesterday, after I realized that the crazed roses in my garden were shooting out blossoms like a volcano spits out lava, I knocked on my recently-retired neighbor’s door. Minutes later, he opened it, rubbing his eyes like a just-awakened toddler.

“Sorry, Shelly,” he said. “I fell asleep. I usually don’t nap in the middle of the day. I feel so guilty.”

I thrust a bouquet of roses into his arms.

“Don’t feel guilty,” I said. I grinned. “A doze in the afternoon is nature’s way of saying you deserve a reward.”

Which got me to thinking about the house where I grew up, that delicious patch of sunlight on the rug in front of the fireplace and...

Oh. Excuse me. You didn’t see that, did you? But I just yawned. And now, I can’t seem to stop yawning.

Yawning. Yawning. Yawning.

I look up.

I see a big, stuffy sofa across the room. Waiting for me.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

And I bet you know exactly what I’m going to do.

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Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2023. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com