When I was five or six, I participated in a project worthy of the inmates of Alcatraz. The other two participants were my older sister and younger brother, and the reason for the project was our aversion to naps. The 1950s was a time when mothers still ruled the earth, and they needed an hour’s respite from their tiresome children. Naps were for mothers, though through some ruse we were made to believe sleeping in the middle of the day was good for us and we wouldn’t grow taller if we refused to comply. For this we had to sacrifice the magic hour after lunch, the best hour of the day to be outside fooling around. We had to endure it inside, in bed, like invalids.
I’m unclear about why I was sometimes sent to nap in my sister’s room. Sometimes my brother was sent to nap there, and sometimes my sister. The bed was high and bouncy, and covered with a blue blanket. It was pushed against the wall, and the wall was painted blue. I remember it as a very blue room. My brother and I shared a yellow room across the hall. Sometimes I slept on the coveted top bunk of the double-decker, sometimes on the bottom. We ran an egalitarian ship over there across the hall. My sister could be a little queenly at times, she of the room-to-herself.
The project involved an unspoken cooperation among the three of us, something so rare as to be non-existent. And because we operated so seamlessly, our individual selves subsumed by the larger body of “we,” the work went ahead quickly. I don’t remember which of us initiated the project because we were a united front from the outset. All I know is that one day, in the wall behind my sister’s bed, a hole began to appear. A sharp pencil was wedged between the bedframe and the wall and this, any amateur escape artist could see, was the digging tool. Other tools were brought in from time to time as the hole grew. Eventually, a spoon appeared, to be used as a tiny shovel. No word was spoken among the three of us. Not even an eyebrow was raised. In fact, to this day, we have never discussed that hole in the blue wall. Maybe this will prompt that conversation at last.
I could stick my forefinger into our hole. It was now more of a tunnel. And then, as mysteriously as it had come, it went away, and nothing was said. Someone plastered it over and gave the patch some blue paint and that was the end of it. Nothing was said. Naps themselves went the way of all things. We found other places to tunnel into, metaphorically, other mysteries to never solve.
I like to think our hole gave us a working sense of how our lives would be. We’d pursue a purpose with great energy and find it gone in the morning. We’d never speak aloud of our passionate endeavors, fearing the loss of them, or the ridicule. And while those things have proved somewhat true, the greater gift of the hole is the ingenious creativity and longing it represented. Without language, with the tip of a pencil and the blunt edge of a spoon, three human beings expressed their human need to be somewhere else and do something other. Driven by curiosity, the need to explore, we found ourselves one forefinger deep into the unknown.
A place to discuss writing or anything on your mind. All visitors are invited to join the conversation by commenting on posts, asking questions, and joining the newsletter below for even more opportunities to connect and converse!