The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Heat Exchange July 19, 2013

Hoo-kay. This is that one week that happens each year in which I begin to think that just maybe I shoulda got myself an air conditioner… Each year, though, I ride it out along with millions of other human beings, and I thank God for my super cool (albeit musty smelling) basement. Usually I can take the heat. Never lasts too terribly long. And even on the hottest of days, it can feel bearable outside as the breezes blow by. The other day, in fact, I gardened in jungle-like conditions, but found that I was enjoying myself. Even marveled at how I was chugging along. (I’m expanding our little pond and putting in a perennial garden. Being such a nature boy, lil man will likely flip when he comes home and sees it all. And I’m going to stock the pond with fish, too.)

I keep checking my indoor/outdoor thermometer, marveling at the phenomenon which happens only at this time of year: the great heat exchange. The time of year when each day it becomes much hotter inside than out. It’s interesting to watch how the two numbers move towards – and then pass – each other. This poorly-insulated 70s ranch quickly becomes a hot box as the day goes on, and it can take hours beyond nightfall until it falls again to comfortable temps. And by comfortable, I mean like 85. And the humidity? Let’s just say that even paper doesn’t behave as it should in moisture like this. It bends in a suspicious way when I hold it, and if I should try and tear it, the fibers reluctantly let go of each other in seeming slow-motion, leaving behind a fuzzy edge.

Another temperature-related fact of life in this latitude (I find Chicago’s weather just about the same, although a tad less humid) is the enormous range of temperatures that we experience in a calendar year. From a nose hair-freezing 40 below to around 100 above, it’s really impressive. And while a bit annoying in those extreme moments, it does sort of give one a feeling of resilience and dare I say pride in one’s ability to continue on in spite of the ‘hardship’. Neighbors raise a hand in greeting across a field, and the feeling of solidarity grows. We are soldiering on; tending to our daily chores (although sometimes with less vigor or thoroughness) and just keeping up with things in general – in spite of the intense heat. “Can you imagine what it was like 200 years ago?” we ask each other incredulously. At least we can jump in an air-conditioned car or pass a few hours at the mall if we really need relief. I think of those folks whose jobs keep them outside on such days (not to mention the horses! Oh those poor creatures running in Saratoga!) and feel great sympathy. And I know that a good part of the world lives in tropical heat and without the benefit of air conditioning. So I know I don’t have it bad. But still.

I won’t be leaving this musty basement for a while yet. My computer’s here, I’ve got a couch, a crappy old tv and tons of filing to do. So I’m ok. For now, I’m going to exchange floors until my indoor/outdoor thermometer shows me some more encouraging numbers.

In an unrelated Post Script: Today I have been divorced one whole year. Didn’t actually learn that I was divorced until months after the fact (pro bono representation, whatcha gonna do?) so can’t say it feels like a landmark really. Yet it is. And I can report that these days I am feeling good about things. It’s taken til the age of 50 and over five years’ distance between me and my married life for me to finally feel free, hopeful…. and dare I say, happy! Plus it’s my dear friend Randy’s birthday too. So happy day to us both, old friend!

 

Out Cold January 24, 2013

Well, now I can understand a little better how my poor chickens feel. Somewhere around four this morning my nose woke me up. My nose was cold. The room was cold. The kind of cold that tells me something’s up. I knew that kind of cold. It got me out of bed to inspect the thermostat, which was now dipping below 50. Crap. I’d done the math – I’d allotted two gallons a day, and I’d kept the house at 50 when we were out, and near 60 when we were home – we weren’t due to need fuel oil til middle of next week. I’d planned it all out; a couple of students’ pay plus my next paycheck from Waldorf and I could afford a small delivery. While I’m pissed at myself for once again needing help, instead of wallowing in it I need to learn the lesson. Otherwise it’s a wasted experience. The lesson? Apparently it takes a tad more fuel just to keep the house at those modest temperatures when it’s super cold out. (Note to self: if it’s lower than 20 degrees out, you’re burning another half gallon a day easy. Check.)

I didn’t want to ask my mom for help, but today I did. The state has already given us our $600 ration of fuel assistance for the year (try heating a house on that for eight months!), so until next week I have no options. If it weren’t for the very real risk of a burst pipe I’d tough it out. Year before last Elihu and I went for nearly two weeks without heat. We just hunkered down in my bedroom and camped out with a small electric heater. Wasn’t the worst experience – in fact we ended up having fun, making up games and reading entire books cover to cover. But in that it’s in the single digits outside right now, I can’t afford to wait.

I was a little preoccupied at school this morning as I hadn’t yet heard back from the fuel guy. As soon as I finished my classes I zipped home, where I thankfully found a receipt from him stuck in my door. They fronted me the oil! Wow. Sometimes it’s good to live in a small town where people know who you are. I ran downstairs and restarted the furnace right away.  So thanks to my mom, and Charlie and Steve, the oil guys, our house will be comfortable again soon. Warm hearts and fuel oil have saved us from being out in the cold.

Post Script: Now I’m doubly inspired to help out those poor hens. I’ll put up a curtain over the drafty door and get another heat bulb hung before tonight.