Hot weather reminds me of my childhood. I didn’t grow up with air conditioning. We had fans—oscillating fans—a fan for every bedroom and one for the couch and loveseat. On a particularly hot day, we’d open the front door, the back door, and all the windows and hope for a breeze. Cool drinks would be in abundant supply, a few ice cubes clinking in the iced tea, Kool-Aid, or ginger ale—condensation making it look like the glasses were also sweating.
Most summer days I’d walk to the corner store for a frozen treat, and then try not to finish it before I got home. Some weekends, Mom or Dad would take me to the neighborhood playground to frolic in the sprinklers. On weekdays, I’d put on my bathing suit and prance around with the garden hose in the backyard—making a sprinkler of my own.
I didn’t mind the heat unless I had somewhere to go—somewhere for which I had to get dressed up and subject myself to the requisite layers of looking my best—church, for example. Getting ready for church on a hot day always meant coming to that terrible moment after showering when I’d realize that I was no longer toweling off because I was still wet from my shower, but mopping up a slow and steady accumulation of sweat.
Church meant layers of frills and flowers, stockings, a slip, and patent leather shoes. None of which were welcome on a sweltering day, especially since our church also did not have air conditioning. There I’d sit in a sea of people, listening to a sermon I was too young to find interesting, sweating. Fans would be a flutter—the fancy frilly ones that opened and closed like an accordion, the religious fans that looked like pieces of cardboard stapled to an oversized popsicle stick and usually depicting a picture of Jesus surrounded by children (or carrying a lamb under his arm) or a bible verse written across the picture of a sunbeam piercing the clouds. Then there were those who had makeshift fans: hats, church bulletins, magazines—anything you could wave in front of your face to feel cooler.
Sitting in church, sweating and bored, and all to aware of our cumulative stench, I’d count the minutes until I could go home, divest myself of my sticky, sweaty clothes, take a cool shower, and then prop myself up on the couch with a glass of something cold in my hand, and the living room fan focused on me and set to its top speed.