Grateful for central heat and airconditioning

Seasonal differences in temperature present challenges in staying comfortable, especially in a 100-year-old house. Time magazine warned of an impending ice age in the 70’s when I was a child. We could almost see the woolly mammoths from our front door.

A large wood-burning stove heated the living room. My bedroom was above, so Dad cut two vents in my floor for some heat. Early every morning during the cold months I could hear the loud squeak of the door opening and the sound of wood being added to a smoldering, dying fire. Sometimes I had ice crystals in the glass of water by my bed and could scratch ice on the inside of my window.

I sure did hate to get out of bed. To stay warm on the coldest nights I wore long johns and an orange knit ski mask. We unzipped and opened up sleeping bags to lay on top of the pile of blankets. I could see my breath and would race to put on my freezing clothes. We usually left our shoes downstairs in the kitchen by a little coal-burning stove so they would be dry and warm. That worked well for me until a cat, who was also trying to stay warm, decided to pee on my new pair of leather shoes. Since they were the only shoes I had for school, I had to grit my teeth and hold my breath for weeks till the smell faded.

Images of woolly mammoths were replaced by a blistering Mars landscape in the summer. The clay earth cracked into antique varnish and crunched underfoot. Plagues of fleas, ticks, and chiggers descended. We kids were driven from the upstairs by the unrelenting heat into the cooler living room with its foot-thick log walls. During the worst of the heat, we brought down our mattresses and oscillating fans, and tried to fall asleep by flipping a damp washcloth back-and-forth on our foreheads.

The year after I left home, my parents got central heat and air conditioning. Oh well, at least I learned to be profoundly grateful for it.


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