Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cave Dwellers

A milestone in civilization was when our ancestors began to build structures to shelter themselves from the elements. As they developed building skills, Homo sapiens moved from cave to house. Last night, I think I undid several millennia of progress.

We went the entire summer last year without once turning on the air conditioning. I'm not opposed to air conditioning; I just didn't want to pay the resulting electric bills. Flush with success, Warren and I agreed to repeat the experiment again this summer.

I almost threw in the towel yesterday.

Yesterday was classic Ohio summer weather, meaning it was intolerably hot, humid, and oppressive. By late afternoon, the wall thermostat registered 90° on the first floor. The upstairs was as hot or hotter.

The house was hot and miserable. I was hot and miserable. We ate supper outside on the deck, which was tolerably hot and miserable only because it was in the shade of the house and so was marginally cooler than inside.

A long, hot, miserable evening stretched ahead of us. As we did the supper dishes, I reminded Warren for probably the hundredth time that I really hate the heat.

"The basement is cool," he commented.

That is when Warren and I started popping off projects that could keep us in the basement for a few hours. Laundry, taping music, fixing a broken snare, reading.

I all but dashed up the stairs to get the dirty clothes.

Shortly thereafter, the first of two loads of wash was churning away. I plopped down on a chair and dove back into Coop by Michael Perry. Subtitled A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting, it is a thoughtful, funny, heartbreaking, goofy read.

Warren taped copied music (you tape copies so the pages are in the right order and easily turned). He fixed the broken snare.

I read and hung up shirts. I read some more and matched socks.

Warren moved on to playing the now repaired snare. "What's that?" "Scheherarzade."

One summer when I was a child, maybe nine, I developed what our GP diagnosed as "sun allergy." The prescribed treatment was to spend the better part of the day inside and out of the sun. I remember heaps of library books (admittedly, there were always heaps of library books, allergy or no) and long days spent in the first floor hallway, playing jacks on the cool, smooth stretch of linoleum. Sitting the basement last night, reading the evening away, I felt that long ago summer tug at the corner of my memories.

By the time we ascended into the heat some two hours later, the laundry was done and the house heat had slacked off a few degrees. We spent another hour talking and putting the day to bed before putting ourselves to bed. With the help of cold showers and a floor fan, we soon drifted off. During the night a cold front moved in and today's temperatures were cooler. The house stayed in the low 80s, and as I type this, a light breeze is puffing in the window over my left shoulder. I am comfortable if not cool.

We're not yet out of June and I am predicting a whole lot of basement time in our future. There's always laundry. There's always music to practice; along with a wide assortment of drums, Warren's marimba is also in the basement. There's always reorganization; the basement still holds the detritus of several generations of Warren's family as well as the remaining loose ends from blending our two households when we married and moved here. There's always something to read. In short, there's always something to justify descending into the basement for an evening.

I know, I know. We don't have to go without the air conditioning all summer. Warren pointed out that we even possess a small window unit, so we wouldn't have to turn on the central system if we just wanted to cool our bedroom. We'll see. I'm game to try to best the electric company again this summer. And if that means we become basement people in the evenings, so be it.

I wonder, as humans moved into shelters that they built themselves, if they ever missed the caves?

I would have.


Deidra said...

I loved reading this. There was something very cozy about it. Simple blessings found in living simply. I remember playing jacks on my grandmother's back porch in the Virginia summer heat. The floor was cement and cool and tossing the ball and then retrieving the jacks became a sort of rhythm of the season.

Lovely post. Thank you.

Sharon said...

Oh April, I'm reading this post after dropping my daughter off at soccer camp. They are staying in dorms w/o air conditioning and I almost died of heat. Hopefully, when she is in her room (evening and early morning) it will be a lot cooler.

I'm amazed you can last through that..but, then again, I grew up without air conditioning and never seemed to really mind....I guess it's all what you are used to.

Try not to hold out too many times if you are truly's too short....!