On Thursday, the temperature in Snowstorm City hit 101 degrees Fahrenheit. In this region, where many of us do not have air conditioning in our homes or cars, and the air is so humid that it's like walking through water, that temperature feels ridiculously hot.
In preparation for the heat wave, I moved the emergency chocolate into the refrigerator. Then I tacked sheets up over our windows, which tend to gather heat the way a greenhouse does. I’m used to the sunshine pouring in, so it felt odd to be living in such a cave-like environment. And the air heated up anyhow. By midday, we’d given up doing anything useful and were all just lying on the floor, complaining about the heat. We've got seven laptop computers scattered about the living room, but it was too hot for anyone to do any work.
Usually, night brings relief from the heat, but that night, the temperature stayed high. The kids slept downstairs on the floor of the living room, near the one electric window fan that actually works. I tried a trick a friend had suggested: I put one of those blue freezer packs, the type you stick in the cooler for picnics, under my pillow. Every time I restlessly turned over my pillow, it was nice and cold. This worked for me, but not so much for my light-sleeping husband who said, finally: “Must you keep turning your pillow over and over again?”
Bulletins on the radio asked us to check in with elderly relatives and neighbors. I don’t think of my parents as elderly, but it’s true that my Dad did turn 80 this year. They were up at camp, but thanks to the wonders of cell phone technology, I talked to my mother and asked how they were handling the heat.
“Oh, we’ve been working on a project,” my mother said. Over the winter, their little cabin had shifted off the cement blocks it rests on. So this is what my "elderly" parents did during the heat wave of the decade: they jacked up the cabin, dug out the old cinder blocks, put in new cinder blocks, hauled rocks over to fill in between the cinder blocks, replaced wood along the bottom edges, and then finished by painting the new wood and the worn edges.
Yes, it sounds like they were handling the heat just fine.
I’d promised, actually, to grab whatever young people were free and come up on the weekend to help with the project, but by the time that Shaggy Hair Boy, Smiley Girl, and I arrived on Saturday morning, the work was all done.
“The heat here wasn’t too bad,” my mother said. “We get a nice breeze off the river.”
She listened patiently to our complaints about how miserable the weather was back in Snowstorm Region. Then we climbed into the boat, went out to our favourite island, and jumped into the cool river water.
That's Shaggy Hair Boy leaping off the island. He didn't even stop to take off his shirt.