It was hot this weekend. Gross hot. The kind of hot that makes you want to hunker down inside, away from the sun, and watch television. So we did. This is not a difficult thing for me to do. It’s my natural state. But for Derek, it seems a little harder. He gets antsy sitting around. Not me though, I like being cooped up in our little house cave, sitting still, waiting for the breeze from the fan to hit my legs. Sometimes, even when it’s very hot, the breeze from the fan is enough for me to need a little blanket.
When we lived in Kansas we had air conditioning, but my mother would often just turn on the attic fan and close the drapes. In the midst of a brutal heatwave one summer, the air conditioner couldn’t keep up and the waiting list for repairs was long, so she’d pile us into the car and we’d join the line queued up outside the pool before it opened. The pool was so hot that summer they trucked in big blocks of ice and slid them into the deep end to try and cool off the water. Kids would climb up onto them and slide around, the cold ice numbing their little feet. We spent that week at the pool from open to close, our skin pinched together into semi-permanent raisins, ghostly white at the edges, sopping wet all the time.
I liked swimming, up until the point I became just another kid shaped carrot in a big cauldron of chlorine scented stew. I’ve never liked crowds and the sun has always sapped my life force away, this was a double wammy and I avoided the pool for years afterwards.
When we moved to Des Moines, into a big rambling house from the early 1900s, there was no air conditioning, and no money to have it installed. So we sat around and cooked. Insomnia was pervasive in the summer and my only relief was to soak washcloths in the sink and wring them most of the way out and then pop them in the freezer. When they were stiff, terrycloth ice boards I would pull them out and lay them across my stomach and forehead, a weak hot breeze from a small fan approximating the general idea of a swamp cooler. My brain slowed when it was hot and my mood soured. I longed for cool breezes that made me reach for a sweater.
We don’t have air conditioning now because it never seems to be necessary, only a few days out of the year are unbearably hot, though that might be changing thanks to climate change. Instead I have an elaborate system of blocking out as much light and hot air from the house during the day as possible and then once we reach equilibrium, the point at which the outside temperature is less than or equal to the inside temperature, we open the windows wide, turn on an industrial window fan in the attic, open the door to the basement and try to coax the house to chill out overnight. It mostly works. Last night we opened the windows once the equilibrium temperature reached 81 degrees and by the time we woke up the house was a comfortable 76 degrees.
I like the challenge of trying to hack the thermodynamics at play inside and outside of our house, seeing if I can out smart the solar heat that beats down on our windows and siding. It’s a weird and fun challenge even if it does leave me vampire-like during the day, sitting in dark rooms until the sun goes down. I’ll come back out when the thermometer goes back to the low 80s.