sixtiestosixties

I was something in the 60s but now I'm just sixty something.

Heat Wave

The weather this summer has been misbehaving! Rain, floods, fires, rain, tornadoes, rain and then, after some more rain, straight into the annual heatwave. This year’s heat wave is a bad one. It just seems wrong when summer temperatures are higher in the northeast than they are in Florida. This can really confuse the snowbirds and affect their migration pattern. A FB friend of mine posted a picture of some neighbors having cocktails up in her summer lakeside community. In the bedroom. No, it wasn’t one of those kinds of parties. (Much too hot for anything like that.) It’s just the bedroom has an air conditioner and it’s been in the 90s.

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Hot! Hot! Hot!

I grew up in upstate New York in the 1950s and 60s. Not what you would think of as a warm climate but at least once every summer we would get a stretch of killer hot, muggy, weather. And we really weren’t equipped to handle it. My mother always complained about the humidity in Schenectady in the summer. As a point of reference, she moved there from Houston. We lived in a Levittown-esque, Cape Cod style home with an “expanded” second floor. Translation…my brother and I essentially slept in our separate halves of an attic. Big rooms with tiny windows. The only air movement we got upstairs was the heat rising from the first floor. We had one floor fan in the small hallway between our rooms. Since my brother was older and more manipulative  wiser than me, the fan was usually pointed toward his room. The theory was that the intake on the fan would pull the air from my room across to his room to create a breeze for us both. Bullshit. The fan blew on him. My side stayed a stagnant attic. All I got from the fan was the fun of talking through it when it was too hot to sleep.

Occasionally, when it got really oppressive, we were allowed to drag our bedding downstairs and make a pallet on the living room floor. This was like being released from the gates of hell. We had a screen on the front door and my parents would let us sleep with the door open. My parents had their own fan in their bedroom. As long as they kept their bedroom door opened for cross ventilation it kept them just cool enough to get hot with each other. At the time we didn’t realize why we weren’t allowed do that every night in the summer.

Turning on an oven or stove to cook in those little houses would bring the temperature in the house up at least another 5 degrees.(Probably 10 upstairs.) Consequently dinner was whatever didn’t need to be actually cooked. My mother would spoil us in the heat wave with a fun meal of huge bowls of vanilla ice cream loaded with fresh sliced peaches, plums, and nectarines. She first tried this light meal with cottage cheese but since as a child I equated cottage cheese to bleached out vomit she gave up and allowed my brother and me to have our fruit with ice cream. I’m convinced this was in part to ease her guilt for making us sleep upstairs and not buying one more frickin’ fan. Really, how much could it have cost?

At some point in the early 60s my parents bought a window unit air conditioner and put it in the tiny room in the back of the house where we all crammed in to watch TV. My mother went into that room in mid June and came out around Labor Day. From there she issued orders and ran the family. The room was meant to be a bedroom but my dad removed the door because it opened inward and hit the huddle of furniture surrounding the TV altar. This was counterproductive for air-conditioning so in the summer we tacked a sheet up over the door frame. I can still see my dad batting wildly at that sheet and moving it aside on his way to the kitchen to refresh those ice-cold martinis my parents used to keep cool. He was a master at cracking ice against the palm of his hand. Then, if I was lucky enough to be around, he’d grab the back of my neck with that icy, cold hand. I’d squeal with a mixture of annoyance and delight. After that first shock, it felt good on those hot, sticky, summer evenings.

How did you beat the heat?

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