It’s 5 p.m., and our little red dachshund is yapping … urgently and persistently. She’s had access to the backyard all day, so she isn’t just begging for a routine pit stop. She wants me to take her on the usual afternoon walk through our neighborhood, to greet the varied mutts and more important dogs also being paraded down the sidewalks on leashes.
I’ve told her before: We can’t go out until the sun drops behind the trees to the west of our house. The thermometer outside the back porch door read 99.1 degrees an hour ago. “Give it time to cool down a bit, Heidi.”
I don’t know at what age people begin to feel the heat — or cold — so strongly. But when I was 7 or 8 years old in east Texas, I complained loudly because Mother always kept us kids indoors for an hour or two — or three — during the suffocating summers. It was paper-doll playing time. Then she’d give us nickels, which bought cokes or ice-cream cones with two scoops, and let us go to the store for the afternoon treat. We’d walk along the black-topped road to Furrh’s, hopping off into the grass when things got too hot for our bare feet.
I noticed children’s obliviousness to the weather when I had my own. A sudden freezing cold snap rushed through New Orleans one winter day when our son was in second grade and had gone to school in his shirt sleeves. I fretted all morning, finally driving to the rescue at lunchtime with one of his sweaters, only to see him come out of class that afternoon dragging it by the hem.
My kids shared the postmen’s unofficial motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
I began to really feel the weather the summer I turned 60. We were moving into a new house and I took a week’s “vacation” from work to ferry some fragile belongings over from the old house. It was July and I nearly melted, packing and then unloading the car.
My househelper explained it: “Miss Bettye, you don’t go out in the hot day when you’re at your office.”
Lately, I turn the air down to 72, mix a bourbon and Seven-Up on ice, put my feet up and flash back to some of the coolest times I’ve had in the world’s colder places. No running through the Quarter in a red dress for me.
— It was a very warm day here in mid June when we caught a flight to Scandinavia, beginning our sightseeing in Oslo, where the weather was — to my nerve cells — more than a little low temp. But the Norwegian kids were swimming in the river at the edge of town, a sight that almost made me turn blue. When we went on our tour of some of the fjords further north, our bus rolled past immense snow banks, some taller than our transport. I can see them in my dreams.
— Our daughter, Jill, and I ate every meal in our winter coats during a March trip to China. That was in 1992, but heating and cooling were still a bit primitive there, even in restaurants that were hosting many tourists. We shivered and shook as we traipsed along the Great Wall and took in the sights in the Forbidden City. It was wonderful!
— On my first trip to Moscow, it began to snow at the start of our visit in Red Square. I remember how the flakes gleamed on the cobblestones that night. Back in 1987 there were no Uggs boots as far as I know, and my toes curled with the cold inside the thin ones I was wearing.
— The coolest place I’ve ever been was Patagonia, the home of many of the penguins of Chile. We rode in zodiacs down the iciest river that my feet, wearing only Keds with no socks, ever encountered. We’d been provided with slicker suits lined in fleece, but huddled together as the spray flew and we drew near to the glaciers.
Some cold flashes from a hot, hot grandmomma.