I’ve always been constitutionally incapable of dealing with heat.
My mother was the opposite. You’ve never met anyone more eager to bake in the sun on a sandy beach than this woman. She would wake me up before 7am when we were vacationing at the Jersey shore to let me know she was headed down to the beach, already equipped with her chair and her book.
(I would spent the day reading in the cool confines of the hotel room, punctuated by occasional trips to the pool.)
Memories of being hot as a child are on my brain because our central air conditioning is mysteriously on the fritz at the moment. It turns on and works mightily for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, and then its double-breaker in the basement trips with an audible CLACK. The first few times it happened I simply reset the breaker, but breakers trip for a reason and continually flouting that reason with manual intervention seemed unwise.
We’ve kept EV6 and I entertained and cool throughout this week with a combination of car trips, mall walking, and cold showers. It’s the nights that are getting to me. Like a video game character who cannot recover hit points while he’s poisoned, I don’t actually seem to derive any sort of restorative qualities from sleep when I’m feeling too hot. We are now on day five (the repairman is due tomorrow) and I am starting to feel delirious.
It reminds me of childhood nights spent at my paternal grandmother’s house, which was equipped with fans and a single air conditioner suspended above the kitchen door which I saw turned on only once in my life. On those hot nights I would sprawl in the middle of a couch or bed, arms outstretched to find the hidden cool spot on the top sheet or beneath a pillow as I counted the slow seconds until morning.
(Their avoidance of air conditioning was out of pure Italian stubbornness. Later, my aunt would have us wear multiple layers in the winter in her huge, drafty house rather than touch the heat. I never minded; cold, at least, can be warded off.)
From my childhood fixation on being cold you’d think I spent entire life spoiled by thorough air conditioning. That’s not the case. Our house was old, but it had forced air heat, so we probably could have had central air for a not-outrageous cost. I don’t remember ever discussing it, though. We were poor, and even after being poor we were still just renters. Some of my earliest memories are of leaving my room to crawl onto the foot of my mother’s bed, since her room had the most powerful window unit conditioner in our house.
When my maternal grandparents returned to Philadelphia from Florida they purchased a house with central air, which at the time I viewed less as a luxury and more like some sort of sorcery. Not only did it work through the entire house, but you could set a temperature and it would maintain that temperature? I remember laying on the floor of my room with my feet dangling over the vent to feel the rush of icy air blow across them.
Now I consider central air to be essential to life. We didn’t even bother looking at houses without it already installed, and I look askance at our neighbors with window units.
For her part, EV6 seems unconcerned with our current, heated state of affairs despite spending her days sticky and her nights sweaty. She insists on maintaining her bedtime routine of being tucked under a trio of light blankets; her only concession is declining to wear socks. Yet, she has given up her mid-day nap multiple days in a row, leading her into her own unique state of delirium as bedtime approaches each night.
I wonder, what will her memories be of childhood heat? Feeling snug in her sweaty cocoon of blankets? Exasperation with how her papa completely shut down if the temperature reached above 80° Fahrenheit? Or, will the immense privilege of living in a home that’s immune to the whims of the weather outside save for the occasional mechanical breakdown render the entire question of hot and cold moot for her?