Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ever green

This morning was cool and crisp, kind of a hint of the season coming from down the block. It was a long, hot summer. We ran the air conditioning at my house, something that would have seemed like blasphemy a few years ago.

I grew up thinking of air conditioning as being a treat, not a necessity. I don't think it was actually something we even used in the car. It was something to be savored while on vacation, in a motel room. It was something to be enjoyed while at my grandmother's house in Michigan, along with jelly donuts and barbecued ribs, but it was a luxury and luxuries are unnecessary.

I loved the old house my mother still lives in, but in the summers it was blistering hot. We opened all the windows around the first of June and only closed them, briefly, when it rained. My mother put huge, steel shop fans in the windows. I don't know where she got them, but they were twenty years old when we propped them up in our windows.

On high speed, the inside of the house sounded like an airstrip. On low speed, the inside of the house sounded like a smaller airstrip.

One side of the fan was covered with a welded iron mesh. The other side, naked blades spun, drew in bugs who flew too close to our home and converted them into bug cutlets. I hated the fans. I was a little afraid of them.

Mostly, I was content to sweat. Summer then wasn't all that bad. I stayed up as late as I could and slept as close to noon as I could get away with.

This was a hard summer. At my house, we got by, working like ants, but saving like grasshoppers. There was no rest. There was no peace. The highpoint of the summer was the visit from my Dad, brother and stepmother and a chaotic dinner with his grandsons that was over too soon. There were a lot of low points.

There were good things. I learned I have a strange, but (not at all imaginary) support system. We're all a little damaged, a little awkward, but we're sort of a community. I got to know a few people from the old, old days. I still feel pretty good about not going to the reunion. I read some decent books. My youngest made me laugh. He prodded and poked the cat until the dumb old fleabag nipped at him gently. My son told the cat not to eat him. He's almost three. The cat is four.

I learned my weird luck is still holding firm. I was the beneficiary of strange gifts, including a bunch of canned food, dried beans and pasta from a friend who was leaving town. It helped when the money ran out, though meals got creative for a week or so. You can do a lot with chickpeas, really.

It was tough all over and the heat made it feel worse. Driving home one night, I passed a line of topless bar, happened to glance over and saw three women, in barely more than their underwear, sitting outside in folding chairs, smoking cigarettes. They looked weary and bored. The parking lot, obviously, was empty, and there was no money to be made.

That's a tougher summer than mine.

This morning reminded me summer was just about over. The days are getting shorter and the holidays are in my thoughts already. I hate the time is gone, but I'm glad I don't have to spend the minutes again.

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