As I write, it’s Wednesday night and I’m waiting for the house to cool down enough so that sleep will be possible.
That’ll likely be several hours, given our south facing bedroom and our builder whom I refer to every summer in less than glowing terms.
For the past few days, the news outlets have been telling us what we already know.
It’s been hot.
Snapping at the dog, who didn’t refill the ice trays, like hell I’m letting that guy in ahead of me, hot.
Hot enough to make me remember my maternal grandmother, Cora Wells.
I’ve mentioned her before and I’m about to do it again.
That’s because one thing Cora knew about was hot weather. She was born and raised in rural southern Louisiana – a place where the heat can turn an asphalt road into something resembling pudding and the humidity can make you feel like you’re breathing through a wet cotton ball.
For most of her life, air-conditioning was a hand held fan with scriptures printed on it and ceiling fans were essential appliances. And, if all of that wasn’t enough, she married a man who worked as a foreman on a banana plantation in Central America and, then, moved down there to begin her family.
The point that I’m slowly coming to is that, after listening to the current crop of weather-guessers, I’ve concluded that they don’t have the descriptive arsenal necessary to describe truly hot weather.
Cora did and, over the years, I heard her use several phrases that’ve stuck with me to this day.
During the summers in New Orleans, she’d tell us to go outside and play and, shortly thereafter, she’d take up her position on the porch swing to watch us and while away the morning reading her paper or tending to some sewing.
Invariably, someone would stop by to visit with her and the talk would turn to the weather. They might go back and forth deciding if there might be rain later in the day but, sooner or later, the topic of how hot it was going to get would come up.
Her mildest forecast was, "It might get a bit warmish later on."
I learned that this generally meant that you wouldn’t want to keep a tie fastened and carrying your suit coat over your arm rather than wearing it would be acceptable men’s attire.
The next step down the comfort scale was when she’d say that "the starch’ll be out of collars before noon." With this, our parents knew they’d be sweating through whatever they were wearing long before lunch. For us kids, it meant we’d be able to wring out our t-shirts two or three times that day.
Every now and then, the local television prognosticator would stand in front of his map and point to a "weak this" or a "stalled that" and inform us that "Tomorrow, the temperature will hover around the high 90’s throughout the day." This was redundant information because Cora would have already told us that "Tomorrow, you’d best be staying in the shade."
This meant that most of our day would be spent playing (willingly, believe me) indoors.
There was, however, one other phrase she used to describe certain summer days.
You didn’t hear it often but, when you did, you knew that the day wasn’t going to be pleasant. Basically, the grass would be wilting, dogs would be hiding under porches, tar would be bubbling on telephone poles, legs and backs would be sticking to vinyl seats, and people would be watching movies two or three times to stay out of the heat.
Those were the days when the temperature hit 100 and the humidity wasn’t far behind. Those were the days when you could see heat waves shimmering and you didn’t move if you didn’t have to. Those were the days when things wouldn’t cool down until almost midnight and, to get to sleep, you’d take a cold shower, forget toweling off, put a fan by your bed, lay down on top of the sheets and just let the air blow over you.
Still, we’d have been ready because, on those days, Cora wouldn’t go out to her porch swing (a bad sign) and she’d have observed that this was going to be "one of those days when you’d think the devil had lost his way."