Sunday Afternoons

Sometimes I wonder if people who don’t go to church on Sundays still take a Sunday afternoon nap. My parents always took a Sunday afternoon nap between church services. When I was little kid, I didn’t fully appreciate this practice. Instead of napping, I would read the Sunday comic page. Or that was always the first thing I did instead of napping. The Sunday comics were special because they were in color, and many of the strips followed a different story line on Sunday. Some comics only appeared on Sunday, like Prince Valiant. Which I read religiously even though I always felt like I started in medias res and that the only way to get the back story and fully understand what was going on was to have started following the comic back in 1937. But the artwork was good so I toughed it out while Mom and Dad settled in for their nap.

We had to be quiet during the nap, or at least until they fell asleep. Being quiet meant not stomping around or yelling. You can only read the comics for so long and then they are done and you have to look at all of the photographs and read the captions in the various articles until you find something that might be interesting. Then you could read the whole article, or until you got lost in all of the Balkan names. The 90s offered us a lot of good news content. Kosovo, Princess Diana, Monica Lewinski, Elian Gonzalez. Even world events get boring after awhile and I’d go find something else to do, but the newspaper ritual continued as long as I lived at home.

When I started playing guitar I would go back to the church on Sunday afternoons and hang out with Jacob, a friend who was also learning to play guitar. Perhaps that’s misleading, he was learning, he already new how. He was a gifted musician. If it hadn’t have been for him, I probably wouldn’t have started playing guitar. Initially I wanted to play the bass. But Jacob got a bass before I did, so I got a guitar.

He was always saying, “Go get your guitar.”

We’d meet back at the church after lunch and hang out until the next service. I suppose the statute of limitations has expired so I don’t mind telling you that we raided the Sunday School refrigerator and snack cabinet quite a few times. I don’t think they missed that forgotten vanilla ice cream though.

We would spend the afternoon all of the guitar riffs that we new and some of the ones that we didn’t and we couldn’t tell the two apart. It was great fun. I still kind of do the same thing now at band rehearsal. We just don’t raid the Sunday School snack cupboard. And we are practicing church songs that we are going to sing for the evening service, and not trying to perfect Lynyrd Skynyrd licks.

Jacob was notorious about waiting until I had just finally got handle on a rock’n’roll guitar lick enough to make it remotely recognizable when he would suddenly say, “Sir?” while looking toward the front door of the church. It never failed to scare the daylights out of me.

On rare occasions, probably due to impending weather, we would help Pop haul hay on a Sunday afternoon. There was always a tangible unspoken urgency to hurry through the chore in order to make it to church in time for the six o’clock service.

Appreciation for a Sunday afternoon nap comes with maturity. Just like having a steady job comes with maturity. Perhaps the shiftless can enjoy a Sunday afternoon nap, but they didn’t earn it.

There are a lot of differing opinions on the art of a Sunday afternoon nap. Clothes or pajamas? Recliner or bed? Post nap shower or no? I’m a pajama-bed-shower man myself. But sometimes the nap is so good you just have to get up and get to band practice and hope for the best.

“That was a good nap huh?” Adam will say if I ever skip the post-nap shower.

“Yes. How’d you know?”

“You got that nap hair going on. Hehehe.”

I don’t always get a Sunday afternoon nap these days because we have a one year old who can’t entertain herself by reading the Sunday comics yet. But as soon as she can read, I’m taking a Sunday afternoon nap.

Sleeping at Church

I usually went to sleep during the evening services.

I used to sprawl out on the front pew at church, use a stack of Sing Unto The Lord hymnals for a pillow and go to sleep. I would try to stay awake by finding faces in the wooden paneling and trim in the sanctuary, but that might have just made it worse. There was a lion, and two bearded old men in the wood grain of the door frame that led to the Sunday School classrooms. If you saw them once, you saw them every time. I’d also try to find characters in the carpet, or look at the map of the Middle East that hung behind the organ. But as a child, these were futile attempts to keep Old Man Nod from riding on my eyelids. I usually went to sleep during the evening services.

It’s one thing for a small child to sleep during the service, but another thing for a grown up to fall asleep at church. I’m sure it’s discouraging for a minister to look out at the congregation and see an adult nodding. My Uncle James was bad about sleeping during church. Or anywhere else for that matter. He fall asleep once at the red light. As dangerous as it may be to fall asleep at a red light, I don’t think anyone noticed. When he woke up he didn’t realize how long he’d been there, or how many green lights had come and gone. It was long enough for someone behind him to blow the horn. I’m sure he was embarrassed, but not too embarrassed to tell on himself so everyone else could have a good laugh. Southerners are considerate that way.

He was sleeping at church one Sunday and the pastor asked him to stand up and pray over the offering. Someone nudged him and said, “James, they need you to pray.” He stood up and dismissed them. Someone else told that on him, some things are too embarrassing to share yourself.