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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Southern Augusts



In the southern United States, summers are like long, never ending tests of endurance and mental fortitude. Even in relatively temperate Tennessee, August can seem like a cruel tormentor - and until you've lived in some state like Louisiana, you really have no idea what it means to endure summer.

I grew up there, in Lousisiana. I breathed in the swampy air and sat motionless through the heat of the afternoon, shaded by magnolias and willows, waiting for the dimming light and the lightning bugs to rouse me back to wakefulness. My friends and I would meet in the dusk outside and continue whatever games we had started earlier in the day, up until the time our mothers would call us home for supper and cool showers and bedtime.

I remember sitting in my elementary school classroom in the beginning days of September and feeling the sweat trickle down my back, wishing the oscillating fan would sweep my way and get stuck, so I could cool off a little bit.

Yes. I realize I'm showing my age a bit. I remember when they installed central air-conditioning in my elementary school. I was interviewed for a radio show about it. I think my parents probably recorded the interview on their reel-to-reel. I think I stated that it would help me be a better student, air-conditioning. If I didn't have to worry about sweat droplets on my math paper, I might be better able to remember my multiplication tables.

We got air-conditioners. It still took me a while to memorize those nines.

Now - my kids play tennis early in the day to escape the heat, although they've suffered through a few late afternoon scorchers. They escape into the a/c in the afternoons, instead of into the shade of a fine magnolia tree, to wait out the heat while brushing up on their video game skills. And still, as the light dims and the lightning bugs beckon, they make their way outside to meet up with friends and finish their games just as I did over 30 years ago in Augusts gone by.

We're not so different than we used to be...