“Can you believe it is so hot?!” I’ll say to someone…well, yes, it gets hot here like this each and every year, Dodo.
In my defense I must say that others make the same comments to me. It’s just a way of making conversation, I guess, and the heat is main topic right now. My little car registered 106 coming home yesterday, and it’s not going to let up through the rest of the week. As I write this at 4 am, it is 86 degrees, and my computer forecast says 106 again today…
V and I were talking about growing up in Arkansas in the 50’s when no one had air conditioning, not even in the car. Ooooooh, I remember my bare sweaty legs sticking to the car seats and driving with the windows rolled down, glad for the warm air moving through the car. We would fight for a “window seat” so we could lean into the air (kind of like this dog in the picture!)…these were the days before seat belts and car seats. (Can you even imagine a car seat without air conditioning???).
V and I both remember uncomfortable nights with the attic fan whirrring. Sometimes my mother would put a box fan in the open window (all windows were open at night or you would suffocate) and the night air would be pulled across our bed, giving us some relief, letting in the night sounds we now miss, too. There were some nights that warranted a wet wash cloth to cool the face.
I knew families in old-style houses who still used “sleeping porches” when I was a child. These were screened-in porches where beds or cots would be placed so that the family could escape some of the heat at night, especially from upstairs bedrooms. One of my good friends’ home was a huge two-story house with most of the sleep space upstairs—which became stifling. Their sleeping porch was expansive, holding five or six twin sized beds turned here and there. It was screened on all sides and at night felt positively refreshing. The only problem was the grandaddy long legs who lived there, as well. Those and the mosquitoes. To be truthful, we lived in peaceful (although creepy) co-existence with the long-legs—the mosquitoes, however, were a different story.
Mosquitoes were a fact of summer nights back then. We all had screens on the windows but, I swear, those pests would find every little hole. Most nights we would hear the whine of a mosquito buzzing around until she found some exposed skin to pierce. Miserable.
I would have to say that the prevalence of air conditioning has revolutionized life. I read somewhere that it was a turning point in the growth of Atlanta for big business. No doubt. Who would intentionally expose oneself to that heat and humidity when you could locate your business in a more temperate clime? Oh, I know that even the northern states have their share of hot days, but here in the South they stretch across a good bit of the summer.
My two animals (cat and dog) are outside all day. Chili has to wait until I get home to get to his air conditioner. Sasha, the cat, is outside all the time. I have noticed that they both take refuge deep under our porches where it is at least cooler. We take care to keep fresh water out for them.
I work in the downtown area where we see the homeless pacing the streets, and I feel for them. I know that there are respite shelters for them to have some cool, and I am thankful for the folks who provide that.
You know, I have to say that part of my awareness of the extremes of weather is age, surely. Although V and I swap memories of the hot, summer nights, I do not recall our playing stopping for the heat. We played hard through the summer—barefooted. My mother was careful to make me come in for an afternoon rest under the fan (V was a late riser and, therefore, not a napper), but other than that, summer time was full-tilt fun for us.
We romped around the yard on our stickhorses, finding shade when we got a little hot. And, of course, the tinkling music of the snowcone man’s truck would bring us to action, scrambling to get our quarters so that we could make a purchase. We had our own personal water jars in the refrigerators. Our mothers kept them full and they were ice cold, waiting on us to come in for a swig, straight from the jar. I remember that when my water jar was an old pickle jar, it never quite lost the pickle smell/taste, which I did not mind at all. Now kids get their cold water from refrigerator doors! Not quite the same…nostalgia taking over, here…
So, my memories of summer as a child don’t usually focus on stifling heat, but rather these things:
- Playing in the sprinkler. For some reason, V and I called this “shower baths”;
- Crisp slices of ice-cold watermelon on picnic tables at the local “watermelon stand” where people would gather on summer nights to buy melon and trade news of the day;
- The comfort of the sound of the attic fan—bygone now for most of us but a great comfort at night.
Hope you are able to stay cool…watch out for your animals. C