I love a nap.
Love, love, love a nap. Just a quick recharge of the system. And I especially love napping while traveling.
As a kid, falling asleep in the car and waking up at your destination was as close to teleportation as you could get. I mean, think about it — you doze off somewhere around Atlanta and then, boom, you’re waking up in your bed.
When my kids were little, the car was my nap cohort. It put them right to sleep. As they got older, that trick started not to be as effective. Eventually, my daughter became a teenager, which means she will, if given the opportunity, sleep 37 hours a day, so when we climb in the car, it’s just a matter of turning up the headphones loud enough that everyone in the car can still hear them and burying her head into a pillow.
My son, however, has resisted the nap. He fights it. And he’s proud. And when we ask him why he won’t just let it go and sleep, his answer is always the same. “I might miss something.”
I have assured him he will not miss anything. I’ve logged a lot of miles in my day. Oftentimes, in particular on interstates, the only things you might want to stop and gander at come complete with a traffic jam.
So you can imagine our delight on a recent trip when we were traveling through Alabama and my son decided it was time to cash in and head to Napville.
As my wife and I were driving near Birmingham, we remarked that it was so great that he was sleeping and how much better he’d feel at the end of the trip and all that self congratulatory parenting back and forth speak parents do to kill time on a road trip. And just as we crested a hill, my wife and I said, at the time, “Was that a bear?”
Yes, on the side of the road was a roadkill bear. Outside of a zoo, my son has never seen a bear, roadkill or otherwise.
My wife and I sat quietly for a moment. I spoke first.
“We…we’ll never be able to tell him about this. This will have to be … our secret.” I think my wife felt I was talking like we had stashed a drifter’s body in the trunk of the car. She pointed at the fast approaching exit. “We have to turn around,” she said.
She was right, of course. True, most families don’t circle back on an interstate to see a dead bear on the side of the road. But then again, most 11-year-olds don’t keep a “life list” of every animal he has seen in the wild, each list broken out into animal classes. And I can say for certain that bear would be a pretty prized addition to the mammal list.
As we circled back up the interstate, my son woke up. We had this conversation:
HIM: Are we there?
ME: No, we’re turning around and heading back up the interstate.
HIM: We’re going all the way back to where we started?
ME: No, just a little bit. We’re circling around. We want you to see something.
HIM: Is it a moose?
OK, so maybe moose is even higher on the list than bear. When we crested the hill a second time, my son echoed our earlier sentiment, only a lot louder and faster: “WAS THAT A BEAR!?!?!?
My son was pretty pumped for the rest of that leg of the trip, so I knew that he would not be going back to sleep. That was fine, as he had gotten in quite a few Zs before Operation Bear U-Turn went into full effect. The most important thing to come from the event, of course, is that he now knows that, should something important happen while he is napping, we will do our best to make sure he doesn’t miss the cool things in life. In short, if he’s napping, I’ll wake him up. Especially for a moose.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.