Heat

Heat

A Chapter by Wendy Seames Garner
"

After spending the day in the water, my entire back was blistered.

"

Thinking about heat, I am transported back in time. Nat King Cole is playing on the radio, “Roll out those, lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer...” I'm lying on my parents bed, waiting for my turn in the only bathroom - with a family of seven, that could be a long wait. I am feeling sick, nauseous from the heat. Dad says I should take salt pills, so I don't sweat out all the water in my body.


I grew up in Michigan during the 50's and 60's. Michigan is the state that looks like your hand. If you look just below the thumb, in the middle, that's where I lived. Surrounded by all that water, Michigan can get pretty hot and humid in the summer. One hundred percent humidity is not uncommon. We usually get a couple of days each summer that are near or above the one hundred degree mark. In winter we go to the other extreme.


We had a big two-story house that was over a century old. That meant no insulation and we didn't have air-conditioning either. My bedroom was on the second floor; the only access to air, through a door that led out onto a balcony. Heat rises; so the upstairs was a virtual oven in the summer. In order to stave off the heat, every morning mom would shut the windows and pull the heavy lined drapes tightly closed. The thought being, this would keep the cool night air in and the hot daytime air out. It wasn't very efficient, but with all the windows opened at night and a couple of box fans in the windows, drawing in the refreshing air, we got by.


Trying to find some relief, and a little sleep, we would sometimes camp out on the living room or dining room floor. The wooden floors felt cool, until they were warmed by your body heat, then you had to move and find another cool spot. I had a sleepover for my eleventh birthday and the living room floor is where we all ended up. We started out the night in a tent in the side yard - the tent filled with stacks of comic books belonging to my brother's friend. When a thunderstorm threatened, we moved inside, and though the temperature dropped, the humidity was oppressing.


Another way my parents tried to escape the heat was to go camping at a nearby campground at least one or two weeks every summer. Dad would leave camp early in the morning, go to his job as a rural mail carrier, and return to the campground in the afternoon. Mom was stuck there alone with five children all day - she had never learned to drive. 


It was cooler there in the shady campground, but we couldn't wait to get to the beach.  Carrying towels, beach toys and a cooler, we all started hiking, thoughts of the icy water drawing us onward. Upon arriving at the beach, we found that the sun reflecting off the sand just made it all the hotter. Tiptoeing into the freezing water, we debated whether to dive right in or wait until we were accustomed to the temperature.  Pretending to be a mermaid, I languished the day away - not coming out of the water for anything. There would be a price to pay for this; my skin, being fair, it burned easily. 


These were the days before sunblock. We had tanning lotion - the kind advertised by the little tan girl with her diaper being pulled down by the dog, revealing the white skin underneath - but it did little for my fair skin. Besides, I wouldn't get out of the water to eat, I sure as heck wasn't going to bother getting out to put on tanning lotion. After spending the day in the water, my entire back was blistered. Have you ever tried sleeping on the ground in an old army sleeping bag with a blistered back? Although the night was cool, my back was on fire!


We may not have had air-conditioning in our house or car, but the movie theater did! Every Friday night, after receiving my allowance, I would walk the couple of blocks downtown with a friend. Handing over my thirty-five cents - 50 cents when I got older - I was able to enjoy a couple hours of cool bliss. I can't even recall all the movies I watched, but I do remember seeing Gone With the Wind, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Romeo and Juliet, and I saw Elvis, in Viva Las Vegas, twice.


We spent a lot of summer days at the park where, although it was still hot, we could cool off by sitting on the bridge and dangling our feet in the rushing water of the river. There was a huge willow tree at the park, with branches just perfect for perching in. My friend, Ruth, and I spent a lot of time in that tree, giggling and whispering secrets. No trip to the park was complete without a trip to the ice cream parlor up on top of the hill. I usually bought a strawberry ice cream cone, the icy-cold cone melting quickly into a sticky mess that dripped down my chin and arms. One trip on the merry-go-round and up that cone would come, it happened every time.


Back then, everyone had their milk delivered to their doors by the milkman. He drove around in a truck, the milk being cooled by chunks of ice. In the summer we would follow him around, begging for ice. Being a nice guy, he would toss the ice to the ground. We ran to pick it up and suck on it. People now will cringe at the idea of all those germs, but here I am today - still alive.


Yes, my childhood years were unbearably hot. Summers just don't seem so hot to me now; we have air-conditioned homes, cars, stores and workplaces - most of us anyway. So when I think of heat, I think of summers, growing up in Michigan during the 50's and 60's.



© 2017 Wendy Seames Garner


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Featured Review

I remember everything you've said...I remember heat like a blanket...like a wall you could almost lean against. I also remember Andy Williams singing about those "lazy, crazy days of summer", though I suppose Nat King Cole did it too. My husband once said he wouldn't every live in a house without airconditoning. I reminded him that we had both grown up without it, and he explained that "It wasn't as hot back then."

Posted 9 Years Ago


4 of 4 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

I remember everything you've said...I remember heat like a blanket...like a wall you could almost lean against. I also remember Andy Williams singing about those "lazy, crazy days of summer", though I suppose Nat King Cole did it too. My husband once said he wouldn't every live in a house without airconditoning. I reminded him that we had both grown up without it, and he explained that "It wasn't as hot back then."

Posted 9 Years Ago


4 of 4 people found this review constructive.

I remember everything you've said...I remember heat like a blanket...like a wall you could almost lean against. I also remember Andy Williams singing about those "lazy, crazy days of summer", though I suppose Nat King Cole did it too. My husband once said he wouldn't every live in a house without airconditoning. I reminded him that we had both grown up without it, and he explained that "It wasn't as ot back tnen."

Posted 9 Years Ago



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Added on July 6, 2012
Last Updated on October 28, 2017
Tags: copyright WSG, heat, fifties, sixties, summer, park, milk man, camping, Michigan


Author

Wendy Seames Garner
Wendy Seames Garner

Lapeer, MI



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