Groundhog Day is drawing near, a reminder that the mammalian family is comprised of two distinct groups: those who hibernate, and those who don’t. Although the groundhog is perhaps the most well-known Hibernator, the group also includes more obscure breeds: hermits, introverts, invalids, homebodies, man-cave dwellers, and video-gamers, to name but a few. I am a proud member of this sect, reciting daily our pledge of allegiance, which ends with these words: “one Hiber-Nation, underground, with coziness and solitude for all.”
Non-hibernators are commonly known as Cabin Fever-ites. Last week,
it was minus two degrees with the wind chill, but a plethora of these creatures were out and about: deer crossing the road, procrastinator squirrels looking for nuts, and intrepid shoppers gathering essentials like celery, Lotto tickets, and new magnets for the refrigerator. They do not seem to understand the joys of hibernation:
1. you advance directly from autumn to spring
2. sleeping for as long as you want
3. in flannel pajamas, burrowed under a toasty quilt
4. losing winter weight instead of gaining it
5. and waking (ta-da!) without bags under your eyes
At our house, a daily snoozing contest keeps us in practice year-round. I normally abstain from participating because I am a simple homebody-introvert with little aptitude for sleeping in; the coffee pot calls to me and it’s all over. My high-strung pup Callie is likewise handicapped; she bounds out of bed when I do, eager to stand on the sofa and bark at the neighbors as they warm up their cars and head off to work. Her laid-back brother Tailor, however, could be Punxsutawney Phil’s love child. He can remain in bed indefinitely, engaged in fierce competition with his day-sleeping Daddy for the coveted title of Nesquatch. The word
is a loose derivative of “nesh-squawk,” the derogatory nickname my grandmother pinned on whichever lazybones kid was the last to roll
out of bed. “Hurry and get up,” she’d say, “You don’t want to be the nesh-squawk!” My husband and son countered this admonition with a resounding, “Why not?” So we changed the rules a bit: if you manage to stay in bed the longest, you are declared the winner. Getting up for any reason (except to pee) is grounds for immediate disqualification. The margin between victory and defeat can be slim, so every second counts. Despite the skill and determination of his worthy opponent, Tailor nearly always prevails.
If I happen to awaken before the day’s first bluish light peeks around the blinds, I love to observe my little champion at work. Often, my breathing falls in step with his and off I go, back to the Land of Nod:
Just before dawn, I awaken next to my still-sleeping pup.
The white of his tuxedo glows faintly against the black.
His chest rises and falls, softly and silently.
Suddenly, he erupts in a series of muffled snorts and barks.
His feet twitch in unison as they carry him
to and from the farthest reaches of dreamland.
Then they go quiet and he relaxes into his sleeping self,
arching his back in a sustained full-body stretch
that would be the envy of any yogi.
His warm head settles comfortably onto my legs.
I cannot bear to disturb him and savor instead
the look of perfect contentment on his face.
Soon the hypnotic cadence of his breathing beckons,
bidding my return to the parallel universe that lies
behind closed eyelids. I drift, unable to resist.
This blog post is lovingly dedicated to my father, Victor.
Happy Birthday, Dad! Hope you don’t see your shadow.
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