The devil is in my house.
It came in through a window, like most burglars do, gaining entry to our inner sanctum and stealing my pride without my knowledge or consent.
It all started with a surprise. Mr. Wonderful is nothing if not fun. His surprises are often something special that we have wanted but wouldn’t buy for ourselves (translation: myself).
Still, I was nothing short of stunned when he lumbered in with a big bulky box containing one brand spanking new air conditioning unit. I couldn’t have been more surprised had he waltzed a herd of cattle into the house. Frankly, around here, I would have predicted THAT to be more likely to happen.
When we purchased this old house I fell in love, hard, with the beautiful hot water radiators. The graceful curves and swirls of the cast design. The cunning little ball feet. It simply never occurred to me that if we had these cast iron beauties what we did not have was air ducts. This effectively cancels out any hope of central air without benefit of selling a kidney or your firstborn.
Like most infatuations, you never see the faults when you are deeply in lust.
I should be forgiven not realizing this because neither Mr. Wonderful nor I, having grown up in the pioneer era of the 1970s, have ever lived in a house with air conditioning of any kind.
I come from a long line of people who survive with only open windows and the occasional box fan to cool them.
I know well the pleasure of singing into a big metal fan just to hear the blades change your voice. I know the pain of being unable to resist the lure — the almost primal urge — to stick things into the fan blades just to see if I could make them stop. Perhaps this was the start of my later inability to keep my fingers out of a mandolin slicer?
Still, I didn’t want to appear ungrateful as Mr. Wonderful staggered in under the weight of our very first, very own, one-room air-conditioning unit.
Here to you, dear readers, I speak the truth: I think air conditioning makes Midwesterners weak. Friends with central air tell me they keep their thermostat set on 75 or 79 and I smugly note that my house holds that temperature most summer days all by itself.
I pride myself on living in an old house that stays cool. Opening windows to capture cool night air and closing them in the morning to hold the cool night air is the key. An evening breeze blowing the curtains is heavenly.
Living in a house that was designed to capture cool cross breezes helps immeasurably too. Honestly, we wait so long for the rare bit of summer in this climate, I’d kind of like to feel it when it gets here.
In an old house I can enjoy the languid whir of a ceiling fan, slam of a screen door and the giggles and “slap, slap, squish” of wet bare feet across wood floors all without having to yell “You’re letting all the air out! Shut the door!” That’s my winter chant. I like to retire it for summer.
Suddenly, in the space of an hour with the a/c interloper, my bedroom was so cold that approaching the door from the hallway felt like we were entering a deep freeze. Call me a hysteric but I think I am permitted some concern that my husband is turning our bedroom into a meat locker.
Despite my concern that he’s preparing a place to hide my body, I do appreciate the thought and I cannot tell a lie: the cool air is lovely. Three days in and I admit I sleep very well with the thing.
I just worry that this one little window unit is going to be a gateway drug. What will we think we can’t live without next? A master suite? Attached garage? A bathroom door that doesn’t swell shut, trapping hapless visitors inside? Where’s the fun in that?
Is this one little window unit a slippery slope to central air? Will I end up one of those people who get the vapors if the thermometer hits 85? Who hides out from even a mild Midwestern summer in hermetically sealed, air conditioned comfort?
I don’t know the answer to that but I do know this: Hell must have frozen over, because we’ve got Satan’s air conditioner.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt enjoys sitting under a ceiling fan with a big glass of iced chai tea. She welcomes comments (and cool breezes) c/o LifeOutLoud@comcast.net; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or www.KymberlyFosterSeabolt.com.)