Our Refrigerated Summer

It’s probably been some time that my age has characterized me as a dinosaur to younger people.  My upbringing contained such absurdities as rotary telephones, no use of seat belts, copious amounts of sugar, breads, and fatty meats, and a television set that not only lacked a remote, but it had a record player and an 8-track player built into it.

During our vacation to the Outer Banks, we took an early-morning walk and heard a symphony of various insects, whirring and buzzing.  It catapulted me back forty years to the memory of what summer sounded like to me.

We lived in a house without an air conditioner.  Can you believe it?

Well, I should say, we did not get an air conditioner until I was maybe twelve years old and it resided downstairs in the back corner window of the family room where we hardly ever went.  Funny side story…the foundation of this part of the house was built into a side of a small hill and once when we had a tornado warning, in the early afternoon while Bonanza was on, my mother whisked us down into a closet until it passed.  So it wasn’t even necessarily a hot part of the house so why they decided to put the window unit down there, I’ll never know.

This is all sort of off the top of my head and the only panel of experts I can summon on vacation at the moment is my husband.  (I’m currently taking a break from using my telephone – not the rotary one with the twisted-up cord; I actually am addicted to my iPhone – and also on very limited bursts of time on the internet.)  He’s somewhat older than I am, but he concurred that his youth didn’t include use of an air conditioner.

Because we survived summer with the windows open as well as a few fans in the house – into which we sometimes inserted pieces of paper to see if we could slice them and also derived great joy of the distorted sounds our voices became when we sang or talked into them – I heard every sound of summer.

I love being outdoors, but I’m not much of a nature buff.  Even as a child, I somehow lacked the curiosity about what this bird was called or what that insect sounded like.  So I can’t even tell you who the buzzing and whirring belonged to.  I sort of just thought they were tree frogs and/or various varieties of insects, many of them tapping away their own sort of sultry rhythm.

Of course, there were the other sounds:  those of kids playing outside, cars rolling down our street, an occasional lawn mower, or the filter from our neighbors’ swimming pool.  But I realize that the soundtrack of my summer was always this hum of nature-y things that lived in the birch trees and weeds that dotted the culm bank across the street from our house.  (Culm bank, you ask?  It’s short-hand in the coal mining areas for waste product from the mines.  I mean, there’s probably a lot more to the definition, but I’ve already established that I’m not much of a scientist.)

Without a summer of windows open, one where a cool breeze is flowing 24/7 through our place, we are deprived from all of those sounds.  Even sitting here, where we are currently staying, I can hear those outdoor sounds, but they’re through the filter of the hum of central air.  It sort of feels like being confined to a comfortable refrigerator.

Now that I’ve established that I have been missing being lulled to sleep by these outside sounds, maybe I’ll make more of an effort to sleep with the windows open.  If I can convince my husband to join me in this endeavor…

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