My son sent me a text the other day. As usual, he employed an amazing economy of words.
“I don’t remember this.”
“This” refers to summer weather in Washington, D.C., which he apparently does not recollect, although we lived there during his preschool years. He’d come into the townhouse after racing around the courtyard with his little buddies, face flushed, breathing like a racehorse, with T-shirt and shorts looking like they were spray-painted on.
His folks were wise enough to keep to the front door’s air-conditioned side and wise enough to move north. Much later, he and our lovely daughter-in-law’s career paths took them back to our nation’s capital, covered each July and August by a dome of equatorial heat and rain forest humidity. At this time of year the place is a swamp, infested not with gators, but guys in Brooks Brothers suits and Cole-Haan shoes, especially on Capitol Hill, a swamp in the non-meterological sense as well. Those creatures can be just as ill-tempered, and far more dangerous.
Last week we might as well have been back on the Potomac’s sodden shores — where the temps reached 98 with a heat index of 105 — what with the week-long heat wave and the back and forth dash from AC’d vehicles to AC’d buildings. And that makes me cross, vexed even.
As much as I’m not on speaking terms with the sun, it’s usually quite effective to slather up or cover up or simply wait for sundown. Except when you slather up and the stinging, burning sunscreen drips into your eyes. I’ve piped in many a parade where folks wondered why I looked like I’d just downed a glass of month-old milk.
You can dress in layers when it’s cold, but when Herr Heat comes to town there’s only so much you can take off — for legal and aesthetic reasons, that is.
Been to Florida twice, and if there’s never a third time that’s fine by me. Well, unless one of the offspring springs for a trip to Disney or the Universal theme parks. Wouldn’t mind seeing that Harry Potter thing, but not in July or August.
Perhaps there’s a genetic component to this aversion to heat. Some years back, at the beginning of an anniversary bus tour through Ireland, the guide intoned, “See that bright yellow thing in the sky? Take a good look now, for you may never see it again.” It being June, the weather ’twas grand altogether, as they say over there. Sunny and in the 70s when we rolled into Dublin, which is as far north as Newfoundland. In St. Stephen’s Green, not far from Trinity College, young people dotted the grass like dandelions in May. That’s hot for Ireland, where the highest temperature ever recorded was just under 92 degrees.
Ninety-two? Get outta here, will ya?
Over the years I’ve had to employ a number of heat-deterring strategies. During high school, my room had a 1920s radiator stuck in the full open position. You could pan fry a two-inch-thick T-bone on that thing during cold snaps. The answer? Grab a sleeping bag and head up to the attic.
Had a summer job at the Bohack’s (yes, that’s a real name) supermarket in Westhampton Beach and, walking back from lunch one day, spied this guy on an empty lot selling water bed mattresses — just the mattress — for 20 bucks each. He had me at “Hello.”
I unfolded it in the back yard ’neath a venerable Norway maple’s spreading canopy and stuck a garden hose in it. In no time we had a poor man’s trampoline for the nieces and nephews and a usually cool place to sleep for Uncle Tim. Since it was chlorine-free, the water tended to get a little gross late in the season, but as the plastic grew more opaque with age, who cared? You just didn’t want to be standing there in the fall when it was time to unscrew the cap.
My preoccupation with the State of Maine is based in part on the Pine Tree State’s summer climate, which can get hot, but not D.C. hot. It always seems to cool off at night, especially near the water. January to April? Don’t want to talk about it.
So what’s the answer? Sit by the AC tuned into the Cartoon Network until the pumpkin-pickers’ eastward migration heralds autumn’s arrival? Not a bad idea, actually.
Note to the Mrs.: If you catch me watching C-SPAN, grab the remote, turn to anything other than the Lifetime or Oxygen channels and throw it out the window. Certainly won’t be goin’ outside to get it.