12 June 2012
One of my big projects over the past few months has been to recalibrate my internal thermostat. I’m pretty dang comfortable in outdoor temperatures between, oh, 20 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit, which is incompatible with Texas most of the time. My favorite regular outdoor activity is walking, which — particularly when I have a warm little baby body attached to me, acting as an external heat source — takes on a more tedious flavor here in Exurbia, where there are no large trees and where the parks, lovely as they may be, tend to be large swaths of unshaded grassland. It’s consistently been in the mid-90s all week, and the temperatures are rising up through the low 80s by the time I can step foot outside most mornings.
It feels a bit unfair to be shut up indoors all summer, but there are a few bright points. For one, it should be of limited duration: I’m guessing that by this time next year, Theo will be old enough to toddle his way through the many outdoor sprinkler parks (wherefore the term “splash pad,” anyway?) in the area, and to start taking baby swim lessons. Also, our featureless suburban backyard is the prime natural habitat for a cheap plastic kiddie pool. But for now, we have the relatively rare privilege of a shaded front porch directly across the street from a deep and be-treed creek bed, so even if it’s too hot to really do much outside I can still pass time during the morning and evening sitting on the front porch, watching the wind swirl the tiny blossoms on the crape myrtle and listening to the chickadees while swallows dart and whirl.
Most importantly, we have central A/C. Repeat: we have central A/C. The last time that I lived someplace with central air would’ve been… my parents’ house, while I was in high school, and since then I’ve only had an extremely ill-placed window unit, if even that. While it doesn’t get that hot in places like Wisconsin or Quebec or Boston, you’ll still always get some days or weeks of high temperatures and stifling humidity, which is why I ended up passing our remaining time in Massachusetts passed out on the couch in a blob of overheated first-trimester fatigue instead of seeing all of the historical stuff I’d planned to over that last summer. But central air! Central air!! I hope that I will never take its delights for granted, because it’s been a life-changer. There is no feeling more delicious than coming from a sweaty walk into a climate-controlled house, even if you cranked the thermostat up to the mid-80s while you were out. There are few delights that I feel more keenly than not sweating through my shirt as I lie in bed at night, despite having at least one fan pointed directly at me. There’s nothing better than being able to wear shorts and skirts around the house again, since my skin doesn’t get irritated where my elbows and knees stick together with omnipresent moisture. I don’t have to fret about Theo pathetically sweating away in a stifling nursery. The furniture is even happier, because cool beverages don’t strand themselves in tiny oceans of condensation.
We also did something that still seems ridiculous and got the car’s windows professionally tinted.* The sight of a Prius with tints seems kind of silly to my Northern mind (and there is someone on our block who owns a Prius with fancy rims, which is awesome), but it supposedly makes an immense difference when you’re regularly getting into a car that’s been hanging out in unshaded parking lots in 100-degree-plus temperatures, particularly with a small passenger in an unventilated, rear-facing plastic bucket positioned beneath the hatchback window. It’s definitely a step up from the do-it-yourself window film that I remember being on my parents’ Datsun when I was a kid, which I’d slowly chip off the corners of the rear windows with my fingernail. But will Theo also know the heartbreak of finding his beloved Meet The Care Bears record hopelessly warped after leaving it in the parked car? (Why was I even carrying my records around in the car in the first place?) Kids these days!
* As far as I can tell, window tinting is one of the few really useful things that you can get from Groupon these days, unless you’re a big fan of spa services.