Monday, July 12, 2010
I lived most of my childhood without air conditioning.
On these humid days of mid-summer,
my sister Linda and I would play outside-
our long hair sticking to our foreheads and necks
in wet, sweaty tangles.
Of course, we were used it-
the dirt beads forming like muddy jewelry
in the creases of our skin
and our bare feet always dry and dusty.
Our friend Gwen was the only person we knew
who had an air conditioned house.
It was fun to play there.
We stayed clean and cool
and her mother served us Dr. Pepper over ice.
It was only at night when we tried to sleep
that we finally noticed the uncomfortable heat-
like a blanket that smothered our sweetest dreams-
like a hot fog that settled in the folds of our sheets
and our damp pillow cases.
The only thing that saved us was "The Fan".
A big, gray window fan that stuck out over the bed
like a metal cage-
it's blades like iron petals that whirred loudly in the night,
humming us into peaceful slumber.
This old fan had a timer.
A dial that Dad always allowed us to twist
to the "1 hour" position as we prepared for bed.
I think Linda and I always hurried to sleep-
knowing that if we were awake after an hour,
it would be muggy and silent in our room again.
There was nothing worse than waking up after midnight
and hearing only the crickets chirping outside the fan...
eventually feeling strands of damp hair strangling our faces.
We usually woke each other up-
trying to convince one another to flip the dial
to another half hour or so-
with the prayer that Dad was deep asleep
and would never know.
Sometimes we got by with it.
(Sometimes even Mom was in on it-
whispering a warning to us from the doorway
that we better not push our luck
and "hurry on to sleep".
Ahhh...another hour of coolness
breathing into our stale, summer room...
after we twisted the timer and curled
up beside each other,
the tiny red dot of Dad's Camel cigarette
would appear in the hallway-
floating as if by magic into our room.
And behind it came Dad-
his familiar tobacco and Old spice scent
reaching over our bed with a grunt
to turn the timer to "OFF"
and stop "The Fan".
so as not to go totally insane
from the brain-penetrating heat
and the dead silence that breeds imaginary monsters,
we laid there and talked.
Giggled, made up stories,
and sang church hymns and show tunes
in our quietest little girl voices.
There were those hot summer nights
when we thought we could never fall asleep again
without the hypnotizing spin of "The Fan".
But, somehow we did-
finally closed our sweaty eyelids
and dreamt of snowmen
and new Barbies
and Dr. Pepper on ice.