Heat always reminds me of growing up, and I am thankful to be an adult all over again. I grew up in a constantly hot place, and I now live in a place where heat is a seasonal thing.
In the hot place, there was a vague sense that the prevalence of white Christmas wishes and orangey falling leaves in the national culture was slightly discriminatory, but the minute I left for college on the other side of the country I instantly understood the wisdom of living in a place with seasons. I completely grasped why people who have always lived with seasons can’t imagine not having them: it’s completely unnatural to live in a perennial inferno (Yes, people say that the hot place has seasons, but the monsoon season is the only one they can ever point to besides the inferno season, and since that only lasts a few weeks I don’t think it counts. Some people even say there is a winter in the hot place, and yes, some mornings walking to school I was indeed “cold,” in the way that only children raised in the hot place could be cold in 50 degree mornings. By eleven AM, however, everyone’s “jackets” – long sleeved shirts, usually – would be crammed into backpacks and the heat waves would start and the distance would get all squiggly.) People shouldn’t live in the hot place. It’s obviously environmentally unsustainable to live in a place that could not exist without air conditioning.
The thing about the hot place is that no one really ever thought to complain about it. I knew not to walk on asphalt during the hottest part of the day because my sneakers would get gooey tar on them, and I knew not to wear jeans for nine months of the year unless I desired the sensation of calf sweat running into my slouchy socks. I don’t ever remember being hot in the sense that people here in upstate New York are hot, where the heat is like a mosquito biting – annoying, something to escape, to whine about. In the hot place, heat was just air.
The endless heat was apiece with the many immutable facts of my childhood – poverty and fear and deep scary weirdnesses. Recently I was telling a friend that when I was growing up, the idea of renovating a kitchen or a bathroom was completely foreign. Everything that was would always be, nothing could be changed. I would come home from school to find crackheads running a neighborhood laundromat from our washing machine for pocket change, my father would be waving a gun at a drunk ex-friend who would be stumbling backwards out the door, and the stark treeless desert heat would be beating down endlessly. Resignation was the thing.
Then I moved thousands of miles away. Now intense heat is fleeting, I can save up money to replace my cracked kitchen floor, and I haven’t seen anyone pull a gun in a fight in years.
Thus, heat waves are a sweet private reminder of the glorious nature of seasons, and how lucky I am to be in this quiet calm green place to witness them.