Growing up my family moved around a lot, but we spent a good part of our early childhood living in Oklahoma City where my brother, sisters, and I were all born. The first house we all lived in together did not have air conditioning. Summer in Oklahoma, then as now, is hot and humid. My mom used to tell about coming in to wake me up from a nap to find little puddles of sweat pooled in the small of my back.
My maternal grandparents, Ted and Lita, lived in Oklahoma City also. They had an attic fan in the hall and a window unit air conditioner in their living room. When the heat became too much to bear, my mom would pack us all in our sky blue Ford Fairlane station wagon and drive us over to take our naps at Grandmother’s house.
We four would lay on an old tufted mattress on the living room floor under Grandmother and Grandaddy’s window unit air conditioner. There under the
My father’s parents, Cecil and Ifa, lived on a farm, the Diamond M, in Garfield Kansas. They never did have air conditioning, and summers up in Kansas are just as hot but slightly dryer than they are in Oklahoma. Late each summer we would go up to the farm for harvest. My dad’s family was a big one, and with the six in our family combined with all the uncles, aunts, and cousins who might be there, it was always the best time.
When we were still too little to help we would ride the combine with Grandpa and watch the golden shafts of wheat get pulled in by the big rotating head and be cut off by the serrated blades that went back and forth on the cutting bar at the bottom. I liked to stand on the toolbox next to his seat and watch the kernels of wheat, separated by some magic deep in the bowels of the giant machine, pour into the hopper behind the driver’s seat. I would hold my hand under the flow and feel the wheat kernels pour through my fingers like water. When I was older, but before I was anywhere near old enough to drive legally, I was driving a big Studebaker farm truck back and forth to the COOP to drop freshly cut wheat off at the elevator and then head back to the fields for another load.
I used to love coming in after a day in the fields and taking a shower in the metal free standing shower in the downstairs bathroom. I liked watching the dust that was heavily caked to my body turn to mud as it swirled down the drain. Fans were everywhere in the house, and after being outside all day, the house always seemed cool, even as Grandma was cooking a huge dinner on the gas stove.
At nights we would sleep at least two to a bed, and we would always have a box fan at the foot of the bed blowing full blast on us. We would lay with our heads at the foot of the bed and talk into the fan listening to how funny it sounded. We did that until aunts and uncles or our mom or dad came up and told us to hush for the nth time of the night. I don’t think that Grandma or Grandpa ever told us to settle down in all the times we were up there.
We would fall asleep with the fan blowing on us, the hum continuous, surrounded by the smell of the Avon sachet that Grandma always put on the pillows, all clean and between soft sheets. I am sure we all loved it and still love those memories.
Now it is getting warm, and we have fans in the living room and bedroom on most of the time and have even turned the air conditioners on for the first time this year. I love it. Just about everything about it makes me remember those times at Grandmother’s house in front of the window unit, or laying in bed in front of the box fan in Uncle Dan’s room upstairs at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
I am even coming to like naps on the rare occasions when I can get them! I never liked naps back then!