Sunday, August 6, 2017

Those Lazy, Crazy, Hazy Days of Summer.... by Gail Roughton

Sometimes you can go home again

Summer doesn't always arrive from year to year in the same month in middle Georgia. It's settled in as early as May and frequently it's dug in its claws by June.  This year, it didn't really hit with any great determination until July. Every region has its own definition of summer--we don't think it's hot unless the temperature's either (a) reached the mid-90's in the shade; or (b) the heat index, the "feels like" temperature, is over 100 which, if the heat index is a factor at all, is way beyond humidity, it's "air you can wear". Occasionally it even feels like air you could drink.  And we have had those rare years wherein the actual temperature's already over 100 and the heat index pops it on up to 108+ and rising.

Maybe it's just my age, but this year, summer's made me think of childhood.  I was born in 1954 so for me, clear memories of summer are intertwined with school summer vacations. That was back when school began with the first grade and the age of six, don't you know, nobody'd heard of Pre-K and any Kindergarten was actually pretty much the equivalent of a play group.  I'm not sure the Day Care "business" as such had even been invented, most mothers stayed at home. Never would I say they didn't work (and never would I say today's stay at home parent doesn't work 'cause raisin' kids ain't for sissies), but do you remember the volume of actual manual labor your stay at home mother used to do? You couldn't pay anyone to do that kind of labor. 

There were no clothes driers, so clothes hung on the line and they didn't get there by themselves. Washers with automatic cycles were just coming into vogue and sometimes those wet clothes had come out of the old wringer type tub washers. Refrigerators didn't depend on ice anymore for cooling, though they were still referred to as ice-boxes, but they didn't self-defrost and defrosting the freezer was a once a week event. Ice cubes came out of ice trays, not ice-makers. Ovens didn't self-clean and there weren't very many frozen entrees' around to come out of 'em. Supper was cooked pretty much from scratch, every night.  Including mashed potatoes that came from peeled potatoes, not potato flakes in a box. Wooden floors weren't easy care like today's laminates and such, they had to be waxed, and the standard of care was once a week.  Furniture was dusted every day and polished once a week and I'm not talking about the spray on polish, I'm talking furniture oil that had to be poured and spread on with one cloth and rubbed dry with another.  Red oil for maples and light oak; dark oil for the darker woods. And you'd better believe the kids had those polishing rags in their hands, too. Did I mention that at that time central heat and air was the venue of the extremely wealthy only and that even window unit air conditioners were almost unheard of until at least the late 1960's, so said mothers were doing all this without air conditioners, under ceiling fans with strategically placed box fans adding additional breeze?

We played outside back then, remember?  With other kids. In the heat. I mean, houses weren't air-conditioned anyway, and neither were cars, so it was hardly a big deal. Besides, my home town had exactly one tv channel and daytime tv was soaps and game shows, anyway. Nobody catered to kids with all day programming. Nickelodean and the Cartoon Channel were in the far distant future and Disney was concentrating on Disneyland and movies. Games were board games like checkers and Monopoly, card games like Old Maid, Go Fish and Rummy, or active yard games like tag and hopscotch and hide and seek, certainly not anything you could see on your television screen. The earliest video games were light-years away.

Who'd ever have thought within half a century, sports heroes would actually have to tell kids to "get out and play an hour a day"?  I was pretty much the only child in my own little country neighborhood so I was a bit handicapped on the playmate thing insofar as running in and out of friends houses because my friends lived several country miles away, but since my mother was a force to be reckoned with in both my school's PTA and her Garden Club, and since most of my friends' mothers were too, afternoon visiting between them was standard at least two or three times a week and play dates were frequent, though no one called them play dates then. Our mothers just hollered "Hey, you want to go to Carol's house (or Gail's house or Bonnie's house, whoever) for awhile?" and we bee-lined it to the car. Things were pre-arranged in person during such visits for the next visit because guess what?  Fully half of the folks we knew didn't have phones. We didn't until I was in the fifth grade, I believe it was, and even then, they were party lines with prefixes like Sherwood or Greenview 5-5555.  If you don't know what party lines are--honey, I'm sorry, you've missed a piece of Americana.

We rode bikes, we played soft-ball with makeshift bats and used pine trees and azalea bushes for the bases. Our mothers hollered us over after a couple of hours and fed us hot dogs and chips with marsh-mellows for desert and Kool-Aid to wash it down.  Movies cost thirty-five cents for kids, seventy-five cents for adults, so those play dates frequently involved movies. Macon had an Olympic-sized public swimming pool, admission thirty cents as I recall, and swimming play dates were usually for late afternoon, both to minimize our sun burns and keep our mothers' lounge chairs in the shade.

We didn't have the plethora of products and brands and variations to choose from back then, which cut time off shopping.  Hand lotion was Jergens, cherry and almond blend. Face cream was Noxema. Toothpaste was Crest, Colgate or Pepsodent. Soap was Ivory, Camay, Lux, Palmolive, Dove or Dial. Detergent was Tide or Cheer. Diapers (cloth diapers) and baby clothes were washed in Ivory Snow. Grocery stores and drug stores were open six days a week, usually from some reasonable hour like eight until another reasonable hour like eight, pushed to nine or ten on Fridays and Saturdays depending on the store.  Nothing was open all night (well, I guess in the red light districts probably, but I certainly didn't know anything about those then) and nothing was open on Sundays or holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas except a few convenience stores and gas stations which were two separate business models back then, not a combined mini-mart. And guess what? Nobody died because they couldn't shop on Sunday! Imagine that!

Ah, memories! They shape us, form us, make us who we are. In our retirement years my husband and I have actually resurrected some of those memories and made them our present as well as our past.  This past year, after years of buying toothpaste claiming to perform pretty nearly every service a dentist does, I picked up a tube of Colgate on a whim.  The basic model.  The original.  I loved it.  The flavor threw me back to before school and before bed brushings and guess what? My teeth looked exactly the same and felt much cleaner than the expensive substitute for a dentist brand I'd used for years.  For several dollars cheaper per tube, I might add.  I'd used expensive soaps and body washes for years, but again on a whim, based on nothing but nostalgia (and the fact that it works out to somewhere between thirty and fifty cents a bar depending on the size pack you buy as opposed to the $1.75 per bar price of the brand I'd been using), I picked up a pack of Ivory soap.  Oh, man! I loved it! I loved the smell, I loved the lather, I loved the clean. I loved the memories. I'd never stopped using Jergens lotion, not throughout my entire life, because its Cherry Almond scent is classic and wonderful and to me, the best perfume money can buy. Any lady transported from the early 60's into my bathroom would feel right at home. 

 We almost never turn on the AC because we live in the country with an older, established yard and trees that shade the house.  We have ceiling fans, a big attic fan, and a big screen/glassed back porch. The back door and all the windows are open.  We have a nice shady side yard that catches any breeze stirring where we've placed a picnic table, the site of many board games with our granddaughter. She makes a lot of mud pies on it, too. It's right by the grandkids' swing set, trampoline and small pool, which isn't terribly big but at three feet deep, gets 'em plenty wet. 

We enjoy being outside and go in and out of the house a lot, something that's hard to do if your body's accustomed to a house temperature of below 80, because the shock of walking out into the summer heat will almost make you faint. Come to think of it, that's probably the explanation for why the human race survived before the invention of air-conditioning. It's the constant in and out sudden contrast of cooled air versus natural air that does us in. Without it, sure, it's hot, but it's not knock-me-down-I-can't-breathe hot.

We love the smell and feel of line-dried clothes and never use the drier, which, by the way, is much better on colors and keeps clothes from stretching/shrinking. Nothing smells as good as a line-dried sheet or feels as good as the slightly rough texture of a line-dried towel that releases the smell of sunshine when it gets wet during first use. Sure, hanging clothes out is more work, but I don't mind.  Mostly because I don't do it, my husband's the one who resurrected the clothes line and he's the one who hangs them out. I'll admit I was doubtful about renewing that practice but now I love it so much I'd probably do it myself if he didn't (but don't tell him that). 

Of course, I wouldn't recommend either not using the AC or hanging clothes out to dry anywhere but in the country. A body'd burn alive doing either in any subdivision that had paved roads because concrete and asphalt generate more heat than an oven. But if you don't have your own little bit of heaven in the country, you can come visit in mine. Where everybody knows if your eggs were fried or scrambled before you ever even leave the Scales of Justice Cafe...

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