Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Oh, We're Having a Heat Wave..."

My air conditioning broke down yesterday.

For some reason, I wasn't even surprised.

After all, if it's going to make a statement, it might as well choose a sweltering night in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave in which to do so.

And, for some odd reason, I am not upset. This may have a lot to do with the fact that the end is in sight. My repair guy is coming this afternoon to fix it....and I plan to hide in a dark corner of the house until he gets here.

Plus, I took a xanax.

I hate the hot weather. Always have. My mother and I, during my un-airconditioned youth in Brooklyn, always tried to make the best of it but would celebrate the arrival of Autumn with joy and relief.

Cold soups (Hungarians love 'em--ask me for a recipe if you're interested) were for lunch, corn on the cob might be for dinner with very little else---we'd each eat at least five ears. And, at night, I'd head for the bakery around the corner -- under the elevated subway --for nickel ice pops. The available flavors were lemon, orange and cherry. Occasionally, and to our great delight, pineapple would make an appearance.

My friends and I used to pretend that we are wearing lipstick after having a cherry ice. They stained our lips bright red and melted into indelible rorschachs on our summer clothes as we sauntered home under the street lights.

If it became unbearable, we'd spring for a movie or head to the library where the air conditioning was so strong that it felt like a meat locker. We loved it. We'd pull books from the shelves and read them right there, sitting across from each other at the light, polished wood of the wide library tables.

When I was very little, we did something that no one in New York would ever consider today.

If it was extremely hot, we would drag our mattresses to the front of the house and sleep with the doors wide open to the front stoop. My mother and grandma would sleep closest to the door so that if someone decided to kill us they'd get whacked first.

I didn't worry about that, though. This was before the city went into the dark ages of the 70's but all I knew was that I was protected by not one but two mama bears. No one could have gotten past them. I slept deeply.
Even he would not have stood a chance against my mother and grandma.
Other friends would sleep on fire escapes. All we sought was air. We didn't harbor illusions about cool breezes.

Accepting summer meant accepting oppressively hot nights and steamy days. 

We were in it together.

Everybody was hot. Who had air conditioning back then, anyway? 

As the years passed, a lucky few got window units and entire families would sleep together on the hottest
nights in jigsaw puzzle configurations of mattresses and sleeping bags.

We did that with my own sons when they were little, singing songs and telling stories in the darkness until the white noise of the air conditioner lulled us to sleep.

I miss it all....grandmas on mattresses, refrigerated libraries and movie houses, ice pops for a nickel. Modern life keeps us cool but more distant, no?

Why Tipper left.
Keep cool today, friends. And if Al Gore calls to ask your opinion about global warming tell him his ego is so big that it's causing the glaciers to melt from the radiant heat it emits.That'll shut him up.

Now enjoy this classic hit....


  1. One of the reasons I loved Kenya was the heat. I'm the girl who will sleep bundled in my flannel monkey PJ's with three blankets over me, without air conditioning. And this heat is too much for ME!

  2. Flannel monkey PJs? I need photo proof....

  3. We don't have air conditioning, so in summer we sleep with all the windows open. We figure the cats would be our early warning system - since they don't like strangers :-)
    Glad it is all fixed now, but that heat is hotter than we get here - I'm glad we're here in the cold!

  4. Janet, it's the horrible, hellish humidity! You can't walk outdoors without suddenly being covered in a sheen of sweat....manky!

  5. Hope it's fixed today; unfortunately ours just broke down here at work this morning. Fun!

    You should really start collecting these memories-inspired posts into a book. I'd totally read it. They're my favorite posts by you... ones about you growing up mixing and melding with ones about the boys growing up. I can't get enough of it, Susan. Really good stuff.