Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Life before AC

Georgia is in the midst of a heat wave. It’s August, the hottest month, and my children are curled up on the couch with a blanket freezing. Their lips are even blue. What’s wrong with this picture? Why aren’t they outside?

Some people blame television for creating a society of couch potatoes. I blame air-conditioning. If we didn’t have ac, it would be impossible for my kids to sit in the same spot for hours because their little fannies would be stuck to the leather couch.

I grew up in a home without air-conditioning. In fact, my parents only recently got central heat and air. As children, my sister and I played outside in the creek, the water hose, and the shade of the woods. Our favorite time was in the evening after the sun went down. My family would sit on our screened in back porch, eat homemade peach ice cream and, on a good night, enjoy the breeze. We would talk and laugh and later quietly listen to the whippoorwill.

I can thank our lack of air-conditioning, combined with Georgia’s hot, humid summers, for my love of reading. It was the perfect pastime for a girl who really didn’t like to sweat or glisten, as good Southern girls say. The hotter the day, the more I read, much to the frustration of the two boys who lived next door. I would often quit during the middle of some sports game they had talked me into playing to go read, leaving them with unequal teams.

When I reached adulthood, I moved out and had my first tasted of ac. I resisted at first, refusing to run it in my apartment. Then pregnant with my first child, with temperatures rising into the high 90s, I flipped the switch and haven’t been the same since.

Now kids and parents are so spoiled from living in an ice-box, they, or should I say, we, don’t venture outdoors. Although I love the comforts of a cool house, I long for the time before ac. When it’s 68 degrees inside, a slice of watermelon doesn’t taste nearly as good. I’ve never made homemade ice cream, and the children have never heard the soothing sound of a whippoorwill.

Perhaps, one day my family will recreate an air-conditionless summer like one from my childhood. In the meantime, you will have to excuse me while I throw another log on the fire. It may be August, but it’s awfully cold in here.

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