Published: Jul 10, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jul 07, 2012 03:49 PM
Weird weather stories
As I write this, the thermometer on the northern, shady side of our house reads 105 degrees. For the first time ever, the tapered candles on the screen porch have lost their erect posture and are now leaning out of their holders, their wicks resting on the mantle, limp as garden hose.Whats going on?I overheard two women at my gym earlier today. One said, The wind was blowing 60 miles per hour last night, and did you see that wild moon? The other added, Somebody said it was Armageddon. And not a drop of rain all night. Really strange. They went on about blazing fires in Colorado, waist-high rain in Florida. Seven generations of folks out in the western part of our state had never seen a tornado before, then earlier this year, bam two in a row. Highway 440 is buckling from the heat, one woman said.There were trees down all over my neighborhood, the other added, and power outages.My husband and I had been watching Wimbledon on ESPN when that wind blew up. It took our power out. Uh oh, my husband said, no air conditioning in this heat? Within seconds everything shuddered back on, blinking and beeping, but humming steadily. I felt so grateful to have power, a roof on the house, and no standing water inside. I was also relieved not to be a child growing up with my parents in this inferno. For one thing, I just know my parents would have been reluctant consumers of air conditioning. New Jersey had its humidity and heat waves, but my mother insisted on having windows open every night to quash her claustrophobia and to catch the breeze, no matter what the outdoor temperature 8 degrees or 98. In the winter, my father turned the furnace off at night. Im sure he would have done the same with the air conditioning. My parents were shocked when my husband first visited them in my ancestral home. He would take long hot showers on winter mornings, to defrost himself, he said, and he would inch the thermometer up past 60 when no one was looking. I had always shivered through Spartan sponge baths at the sink, a splash of almost-warm water on a cold washcloth, and the occasional tepid two-inch tub my parents permitted. Being blue-lipped around the house all winter was, to me, normal. But my husband said, I dont think its hospitable to keep a house so cold inside that I have to wear my long johns, a wool sweater and a vest.And by the way, he added, you cant get clean with splashes of cold water. From him, I learned about basic hygiene. He washed behind his ears, lathered up fiercely, scrubbed body areas as though they were growing moss, which, in my house, they probably were. He soaked cuts in hot water, squeezing out the dirt. Growing up we always just slapped on a Band-Aid, if we could find one, and hoped for the best. Our covert belief system: ordinary comfort and hygiene were withheld because to be too cozy or too clean was considered self indulgent. My parents always reminded their three girls that most people in the world had no fans, deodorant, shampoo, or even clean water for drinking, not to mention bathing. Hair didnt need washing more than once every two weeks and scented products for lathering and lotioning our bodies were utterly wasteful. Who needed more than a bar of Ivory soap?As for heat, if you were warm on a summer night, simply sleep naked and forgo a top sheet. In this current siege, my parents would probably drag out a few window fans and angle them to blow the heat in from the night, like blasts from a hair dryer.However, I just might turn out to be the lucky one: if this weird weather doesnt let up, and the power grids keep giving out the way they have in the mid-Atlantic states, Im thinking that some day maybe soon my deprivation training just might come in handy.
Carol Henderson is a writer and teacher. Contact her at: email@example.com or www.carolhenderson.com