August 01, 2006

Heat Wave

Here is the scene at my house: everywhere you see the dead bodies of cats, sprawled out limp on the linoleum. Oh, okay, maybe they aren’t really dead, they are just sleeping, but that's the effect. Seven limp cats, draped on the floor, unable to move in the heat. They aren't even hissing at each other. In this heat, they've called some kind of truce.

Of course, the bigger lumps on the floor, clad mostly in black t-shirts and shorts, are kids. Boy in Black and Shaggy Hair decided yesterday evening that their strategy for handling the heat wave would be to stay up all night celebrating the fact that July was over. (Their evil mother had banned computer games for the month of July.) Their plan was to play computer games all night and then spend the day sleeping on the floor. Every once in a while, Shaggy Hair will sit up and complain, "It’s too hot to sleep," before falling back into a sound sleep.

The voice on the radio tells us that a running race has been cancelled. And we are supposed to check on elderly neighbors. We are a region well-prepared to deal with snowstorms: heat waves, not so much.

Skater Boy is lying on the floor with an ice pack on his head, which makes him look wounded even though he is not. Pirate Boy, unbelievably, is sitting at the computer. I say unbelievably because the kids' computer is in an upstairs bedroom with a southeast exposure and the room feels like the inside of a dishwasher. The even more unbelievable part is that both these kids live in homes that have air conditioning and for some inexplicable reason are at my house instead. Blonde Niece, clad in a bathing suit, with her hair wet and pulled back from her face, is lying on the floor in the hallway, where she claims she is catching a breeze from one of two electric fans that we own.

My Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter is talking happily on her cell phone to Film Guy, whose grandmother has a pool and has invited her over. She volunteers at a women's shelter and spent a sweaty morning lugging bags of clothes and boxes of belongings over sizzling city sidewalks to move several women into apartments. So she probably deserves a swim. With-a-Why, on the other hand, has not moved all day: he is lying on the floor, reading a book. I don’t think anyone in the house has eaten anything, although the kitchen counter is crowded with glasses from the many glasses of juice we've had. Oh, Blonde Niece did cut up the watermelon. Can we count that as lunch?

As I lie on the floor, I tell myself to soak in the heat, let it somehow enter my bones, where I will store it for the cold winter ahead. Next January, when I am sitting on a chairlift, after several runs down the ski slope, and I am shivering with cold, the wind sending chills through my wet clothes and my feet so icy that they are painful, I will try to remember this heat.

I tell one of my kids this theory about heat, how we can store it up in our bones the way plants turn summer sunlight into food for the winter. He lifts his head from the floor and mutters, "Humans don’t have chlorophyll."

25 comments:

kathy a said...

he's got a point. hope the heat passes soon.

OneTiredEma said...

Oh yay, you're the Frederick of the family! (I mean, I'm sure you're good with the food storage and home repair too, as moms have to be, but you have to feed the soul too.)

Stay cool. And watermelon definitely counts as a meal in this weather.

RLT said...

I love the quotes from your kids. I especially liked the one from vacation that ended, "Aren't you supposed to warn your kids about that?" IMO, not only do quotes like these say cool things about their sharp intellect and equally sharp senses of humor, but also about you and (I'm guessing) your spouse. :)

susan said...

I was just going to say that you should be reading Frederick aloud, but OneTiredEma already made the connection.

I do love that your extras are still hanging at your house, heat notwithstanding.

Writer Chica said...

You're getting the heat wave that just passed through my neck of the woods. During these really hot times, I always wonder whether air conditioning has ruined our bodies ability to adapt. I don't remember feeling as miserable about the heat when I was younger and without air conditioning as I do now with air conditioning. The shock of going from one air conditioned place to hot outside to another air conditioned place feels more dreadful than the heat itself.

I agree that watermelon counts as a meal. In that heat, anything that doesn't require cooking counts as the meal.

Stay cool. The heat will pass in a few days.

jo(e) said...

Writer Chica: I am rarely exposed to air conditioning (I don't have it in my home or car) but your theory makes sense. I know that I dread going to the grocery store because I will feel chilled going in .... and coming out to the hot parking lot will be awful.

But also, quite simply, the climate here has changed. We keep setting new heat records.

My Dad has lived here for 75 years, and he says that we simply have more days above 90 than we did when he was a kid. The scientists I work with have backed his anecdotal information up with data.

Jessica said...

Hah - love your kid's comment!

Chip said...

oh yeah, it's hot. We're getting by with fans -- it's amazing how well they can work. BTW I love the imagery of absorbing this heat now to keep us warm when the cold of winter is upon us.

Songbird said...

We have A/C. We got a window unit to cool two downstairs rooms. We did it for the dogs. Last night I was ready to sleep with them on the dining room rug.

Girl said...

And yet, even though we are setting records every summer...'there's no such thing as global warming!'

ccw said...

We have central air and I got the box fans out of the attic to help since I keep the thermostat set rather high.

I grew up without a/c, but I cannot imagine doing without it now.

jo(e) said...

Girl: Ironic, isn't it? All my scientist friends agree that global warming is occuring. It's only politicians who somehow look at the data and dismiss it as something that could hurt their careers ....

pPB said...

Okay, I can understand the no airconditioning thing, but I simply cannot live without fans. I don't know how you're living on two.

My cat has decided that the bathtub is the only place cool enough for her to sleep.

listmaker said...

In this weather iced tea counts as a meal in my house.

Kate said...

I hate the heat! I don't want to stored in my bones or anywhere else in my body. Maybe one day I will fulfill a lifelong dream and move to some mountainous region with snow 9 months out of the year.

As for now, I will enjoy my air-conditioned office and home and dread the 45 minutes each morning and afternoon that I spend walking and Metroing between them.

BTW, I've been enjoying your blog. Keep up the good work.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Blond niece is in her bathing suit reclining on the floor?

THAT'S why the boys insist on coming to your house...!!

Oh, and as for storing up heat in your bones for the winter, read "Frederick" by Leo Lionni...it's about a mouse who sort of does the same thing. He's my hero.

Yankee T said...

Ceiling fans are a relatively inexpensive alternative to a/c, neither of which I could ever again live without.

jo(e) said...

Mona: You do have a point. Every boy here who is not related to Blonde Niece has a crush on her.

What is this Frederick book that everyone keeps referring to? How is it that everyone knows about it but me? Has it been published since my kids were little? I am going to have to look it up.

Yankee Transplant: The problem with ceiling fans is that both Spouse and Boy in Black are over six feet tall, and our ceilings aren't that high ....

My sister has a family of very small people and she has ceiling fans in every room.

We do have one over our table. A fun game in the house is to duct tape strange objects to it and then turn it on. Streamers of toilet paper actually look the coolest ....

Psycho Kitty said...

Jo(e), re: 12, it makes me nuts. When we moved here in '75, central Florida (from whence we came) had had one day of light snow that melted on contact in the 8 years I'd lived there. How many heavy freezes do they get now? And this place to which we moved--no one here had air conditioning in their cars or homes, it was a waste of money. Now? People can't comprehend that I didn't have it installed in the house. Global warming, indeed.

Bitty said...

The "tower" fans are splendid. They don't take up much room and blow quite a breeze. Mine has remote control, as well.

If I needed another fan, that's what I'd be buying.

Good luck, guys. It seems like my home, Florida, is the only one not having an insane heat wave.

That's because high 90s are normal here this time of year.

jo(e) said...

See, we don't have many fans because we don't usually need them -- sometimes we will get a summer with not a single day above 90 degrees -- and I hate the noise of a fan -- and we don't have any room to store them. So it seems silly to get fans for the one or two heat waves we get, when often we are off camping so much anyhow.

But right now, I am regretting the lack of fans. A little moving air would be nice.

I hear thunder in the distance, though, so maybe a good storm will cool us off.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Not to brag but it was 40 degress (F) here this morning. Now it's about 78.

And there's no humidity. My 2-year-old has a terrible cold so I ran *two* humidifiers in her room last night to give her some relief.

jo(e) you would love Leo Lionni. My kids like "Fish is Fish.".

Songbird said...

"Swimmy" is another beloved Lionni story at my house, but "Frederick" is my favorite.

Leslee said...

:-)

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

When the cats all look dead around here, we call it "cat gas", as in "someone has gassed our cats" -- the cat gas seems to be most concentrated in my office, which is the only room that gets no direct sunlight...

Take care in this nasty heat -- we had it here while you were on vacation by the ocean.... I wanted to jump into y our vacation photos!