Summer memories

Its been so hot this summer - humid, heavy air. People talk about the heat. Endlessly.
Its hot all
across the nation. Look at Texas. Yesterday it was 113 degrees in Texas - and thay have had these same high temperatures for a month. Its summertime.

My grandmother called these the dog days of August - hot and stll and dry- -when the sun scorches the earth and anything else. In this kind of weather dogs lay down, pant and keep still.

Do they call them the dog days because of those lazy dogs. I looked it up. The name came about a long time ago - - - from ancient times when people first noticed that the stars formed shapes in the sky. Canis Major - the big dog - also called sirius - is the brightest star. From July to September it rises and sets with the sun - because of this the Romans believed it added extra heat to the sun - hence--dog days. We know today that Sirius does not give extra heat --that comes from the tilt of the earth - but we still call these hot days - the "dog days". Lately there have been times when I wanted to stretch out on the floor with my wise dog.

Today we can stay inside - in the air-conditioning - and when we go out we run to our air-conditioned cars. We lock our selves in to lock out the heat. We keep cool.

Maybe - like me - some of you remember the days when we did not have air-conditioning. You kept the windows open in the summer to let in any breezes that might cool things off. When those soft winds came they lifted the curtains at the windows so that they billowed into the room. Even the look of those quivering curtains cooled things down.

Or there was the purring sound of oscillating fans as they stirred their machine made breeze across the rooms---

Or the window fan blew strong gusts of air straight across the room when it was really stifling - - you set yourself directly in front of it and the mechanical wind blew your hair.

My daddy's mother lived in a large two story house in Charlotte, NC where there was a large fan in the attic. In the summer they removed a large square of the ceiling and replaced it with a grid of wood lattice strips so the air could swoosh down into the house. The fan roared as it pushed cool air through the upstairs bedrooms and down over the stairs to the first floor. That's how I learned that "cold air falls - - hot air rises." On a steamy dog day - my grandmother would tell us grandchildren to lie down on the floor under the fan and let the cool air wash over us from head to toe. When I slept over I pulled a summer blanket over me as the fan cooled the bedrooms and the roar of the fan lulled me to sleep. When they turned it off the house suddenly sounded so QUIET. Just talking about that fan cools me off.

Many things changed in the summer-

Take clothes for instance - kids wore shorts, light shirts, and sandals or most delicious of all we went barefoot - where it was decent. You had to be careful here you walked because of briars and stickers and so you didn't step in anything nasty. The the sidewalks felt firm and sometimes cool at home and when we were at the beach I loved to walk in the sand.

The women wore shorts - but only at home or at the beach - not to the store or to church. When they went out they put on light weight dresses with full skirts that swung gracefully around their legs as they walked. They put away the nylon stockings for the summer - painted their toenails bright red and wore strappy sandals.

We ate different foods in summer. Cold foods were favorites - things that could be cooked early in the day so that the heat from the stove and the oven would not heat up the house in the late afternoons.
You could often smell the tastes of supper just after you are your breakfast - frying chicken, boiling potatoes for potato salad or a ham baking. Remember jello molded with fruits trapped inside it. The real summer eating treat - watermelon.

For those people who had porches or shaady yards - the family moved outside after supper.

My mother's mother had a screened porch across the entire front of her house. It was a wonderful place to place anytime but in the summer it was even more wonderful. Granny turned it into an outdoor living room. In late May or early June - well before it really got hot John came and put down the woven straw rugs and they moved some comfortable furniture outside. Put several table lamps near the chairs and couch slong with a table radio.

There was a coffee table so that Dad Jack had a place to play the Solitarie games he liked to play before supper. You could hear him slap the cards on the table top across the room -

After supper Granny brought out a large pitcher of iced tea. We played rummy and listened to the radio. Dad Jack always had some magazines near-by to read and when people walked by they might call out hello or come up the walk and sit a spell.

It was different where I lived. During and after WWII we lived in a 12 family apartment house. After supper we might sit in the back yard with any of the other folks who lived in our building or sit on the wide steps of the front porch. I liked to skate on the driveway beside the apartment house - it was wide, white, and smooth. Kids played out-side as the light of day slipped away maybe catching lightning bugs, or playing hop scotch on the driveway. Once the women took in the laundry from the clothes lines in the back yard someone would set up several sprinklers and we would run through the cooling water - a quick outside shower before going into bed.

We lived in a corner apartment at the back of the apartments house on the second floor. I slept in a top bunk bed. With the window open I could hear the singing and the voices from the revival tent on the corner two houses away. Later I listened to and watched the men loading the trucks with trays of pies from the Queen City Pie Company preparing for early morning deliveries.

A few years ago Jim and I spent the month of July in Venice. It was the hottest July in Europe in a 100 years.
Our rented apartment was not air conditioned We kept the windows open. The hum of an oscillating fan lulled us to sleep. We woke to the cooler early morning breezes tossing the curtains out into the room,
We sat outside when we ate supper at local restaurants. When we prepared our meals in the apartment we did not cook so we would not heat the apartment. We feasted on local cheese and large loaves of crusty bread, salads, cold meats and ices.

With the windows open we heard all the passers-by below our second floor window. Bells from a nest-by church which we noticed the first week gradually became just part of the background.

We often retreated into large dark churches to escape the intense heat and sat on the marble steps near the altar so that the cold stones helped to cool us down
or we took long rides on a vaporetto on the canals to feel a cool breeze from the water or catch some spray while sitting in the back of the boat

We ate delicious flavored ices.
I wore loose fitting dresses that swirled around my legs as I walked
and large straw hats like my grandmother had done.

We drank iced tea
and we listened to the radio for music because we could not understand the language
on television so we read and talked in he evenings.

We look back on it as our perfect summer

Was it because it was Venice - that incredibly captivating place
or because we were reliving so many sweet childhood memories
or - because the heat slowed us down to enjoy the time

Tonight, feeling hot, even in our air-conditioned house - we ate a frozen Eskimono Pie for dessert - the "original" still wrapped in silvered foil.
Jim bought them. Maybe he heat brought up some memories.


Ellie said...

Summer...it gives so much more than it takes. I turned off the ac today & just used the fan...Balto has cooled a little bit.

My bare feet used to be so tough I could skitter right across the stone lane to my grandma's. Of course I was quite a bit lighter then, too.

Thank you for this summer evocation.

Debbie Couture said...

Carrie and I went out for ice cream tonight and it was actually cool. We sat at a table outside and were very comfortable. It's been a while. Summers were different without central air. We do all need to slow down and enjoy them. Good memories.


Ice cream - do you have a Good Humor guy coming through your neighborhood.
We didn't in the dark ages of my childhood but our kids kept watch for him and it was fun to watch the swarm of kids gathering to get their cool trets.

Debbie Couture said...

We had a Good Humor man when I was a child and I always wanted ice cream. Today in my neighborhood we have an un-named ice cream man come by. We don't let the kids run out to him. Funny thing. I was once eating in a hamburger place in DC as a teen and there was my ice cream man working there. It was so strange and I talked to him about it.