My alarm rang several times. I snoozed it instead of dismissed. I still held out a flicker of hope to get up early to weed in the damp earth before the sun rose high in the sky. Early rise despite going to bed after 2 AM. You might call me lazy to hit that snooze or you might say I’m free. No one but me and my flowers care about those weeds. Or maybe you should just call me tired still. After all sleep affects health.
Last night I opened the windows, one with a screen and one without. I considered for a moment that a bird might hop in bed with me. And when I finally awoke, it was to the music of the birds. No. Not in bed but outside in the trees and on the telephone lines, a perch that entices marksmen according to our telephone repairmen. But their greatest feat of balance, perching on the side of a weed’s gracefully waving lissome stem. And never a wobble from the bird. Not weeds, life.
The windows are open because the whole-house-air is not working. When we installed a new furnace in the first years after we bought the house, we didn’t want to spend the extra money for air. Remembering that furnace also brings back the memory of the installer, shockingly dead at a very young age a few years later. We measure our lives in furnaces, roofs, washers and dryers, jobs and if lucky, in the people who briefly touch our lives. Who will remember you for one brief moment?
When I returned to the mushroom mines in December 1999, air conditioning was one of the first things I bought for our house. A couple of years ago, a new furnace again but that air conditioning unit still worked. So why replace it? Is it unbearable without air? No. Maybe unbearable in the dog days.
Let’s begin at the beginning of my history with air conditioning. My first home in Leader Heights PA. No air. The house on the corner of Bear and Main in Worthington PA. No air. The house on Bear Street. No air. We had screens for sun and rain. We had window fans, even the monster barn fan. I ran the fan in my window all night until the damp night air froze me wrapped like a mummy. I was soothed by the motor and the spinning blades and the comfort of blankets. It was like being cocooned in a freezer. When my parents finally installed air, the bedrooms didn’t cool down as the rest of the house. The duct work of the previous century deficient for efficient cooling. Same as this house built in 1916. I left my parents home for Penn State, both dorm and off-campus. No air. I might be wrong on air in East Halls, my first dorm and farthest from the hub of the campus in 1969. Back home, still no air. Apartments in Butler and Fenelton. A window unit in one apartment. But no full service air. Next the move to sunny hot Tucson, Arizona. No air. Instead a swamp cooler mounted on the roof that worked on evaporating water. It cooled. I liked the name. Swamp cooler. Exotic. In the Everglades or the Amazon. Dreamily wrapped in a bed encased by netting draping from the ceiling. No, just Arizona with the swamp cooler. And the Fiat Strada we bought in Tucson, abandoning all hope for the option of a yellow sports car to pick the practicality of the white Strada? No air. Back to Pennsylvania to live in the Claypoole family farmhouse. No air.
First home! First air! Cowansville PA. We used it. We enjoyed it. People expect it when buying a house. But in the apartment in Pittsburgh. No air. I never gave it a thought in October, or if I did, I couldn’t feel the heat of summer. I took the room air conditioner a few weeks ago for the common areas. I turn it on to cool the room. My daughter turns it off because it’s too noisy for the television. Me? I still like that fan at night tilted at me soothing me to sleep.
Am I done with air conditioning? Don’t be silly. Of course not.