And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
I’ve been feeling old lately. And I’ve been feeling old in the middle of a bizarre heat wave, and our air conditioner has broken down, and the fix-it guy won’t be here until Monday. I’ve been feeling old in a bizarre heat wave in an air condition-less house while I’m still taking cancer medication that throws me into hot flash after hot flash.
Yeah. It’s been that kind of week.
I’m not sure where the “old” is coming from. Maybe from knowing that next month, a 1 will be added after the 6 in my age, which means I’ll be over sixty instead of just sixty. Maybe it’s because my list of people I know who have died is growing faster than the list of new people I meet. Maybe it’s because my news feed is full of a variety of replacements, hips, shoulders, knees, heart valves, than it is with exciting new experiences. Maybe it’s because my youngest will soon turn 21 and my grandbaby is going in to the third grade. Lordy.
So I was in the middle of feeling old and hot and grumpy this week when I found myself home alone. Both Michael and Livvy were off to work. It was just me and the dog and the cats. I came upstairs to get some work done, and as I approached my desk, I passed the floor-standing fan I have placed in the middle of my workspace, so I can sit and work in a steady breeze in the middle of this new Wisconsin desert. I sat down, turned on the little desk fan I also have sitting to the side of me, breathed a dragon sigh, and opened a student manuscript.
Then I looked up at the floor-standing fan again, its white grill looking full-face at me from just over my computer screen.
And I remembered something.
I was twelve years old before I lived in a house with air conditioning. Before then, on hot days, I would disappear down into the basement, or I’d hop on my bike and go to a swimming hole. I’d sit under a tree and read or run through a sprinkler in the back yard, or better yet, I’d dance in a sudden cloudburst. Or I’d sit directly in front of a box fan.
When we moved to the house with the air conditioning (it was my arrival in Wisconsin), it was treated as a rare and treasured commodity. It had to be scorching hot to be flipped on. My father would run around the house, shutting windows, and my mother would chase after him, closing all the curtains. Our house became a cool nighttime dark in the middle of blazing sun day. We didn’t turn lights on, because they added heat and made the precious air conditioning work harder. I would usually sit in my dark room for a while, struggling to read in the limited light, but then I’d get up and go back outside into the heat. I’d ride my bike, enjoying the breeze that kicked up. We lived near Lake Kegonsa, and I’d go swimming off the boat landing or sneak behind the clubhouse at the country club to jump off their private dock into the water. Sometimes I’d go to a friend’s house that also had air conditioning, but it wasn’t treated as such a prized commodity. The curtains stayed open and I could still see. Or I’d go to a friend’s house that didn’t have air conditioning and I would sit…in front of a box fan.
Pre-air conditioning or post, alone or with company, I did something else when I was in front of a box fan.
Remember that? Remember the fan distorting your voice into an insect buzz? It made you laugh, it made those around you laugh if you weren’t alone, and laughing always made you feel better. It was like an internal air conditioner. About the only thing funnier was breathing in helium and turning into a Martian.
Oooo. That’s a thought. What would it be like to breathe in helium and then sing into a fan? Must remember that for later.
So I was home alone. Hot and grumpy. With a fan grinning right at me and reminding me of my past, now that I’ve reached this oh-so-old age.
I closed the lid of my laptop and walked around my desk to face the fan. It wasn’t a box fan, which is probably good, as I don’t know if I could have gotten back up if I sank to a sit on the floor. But I had to bend a little to get myself nose to nose, if you will, with the fan.
And then I sang. Old songs, that I could remember belting into other fan blades when I was a kid.
Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head
Gentle On My Mind
American Pie (American Pie!)
You’re So Vain
That last song was particularly hysterical with my bug-buzzy voice. When I got to the “Galileo” part, I laughed so hard, I had to grab on to the bookshelf next to me to remain standing. And I discovered that while my home’s air conditioner might be broken, my internal air conditioner was still intact. A little rusty from lack of use, maybe, but laughing lubricated it right up. I laughed with tears streaming down my face, and the fan hit them and gave me a shiver (with every paper I’d deliver…).
Of course, I couldn’t hold that bent-over posture for long. My back, donchaknow. And my knees.
I spent the rest of the afternoon working on student manuscripts, but taking a moment every now and then to smile at my hew friend, the floor-standing fan.
And maybe, I thought, maybe I will get a box fan. And set it up on a table by my bed, so I can lay down on my stomach and sing into it without a care about getting back up.
(But there’s one thing I know, the blues they send to meet me won’t defeat me. It won’t be long til happiness steps up to greet me!)
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.