And Then What Happened?: And now the weather y’all

  • PARATI

For the Recorder
Published: 6/28/2021 5:12:03 PM

Aiightch’all! (That’s Southern for “Hello everyone, thank you for being here, now please pay attention to what I’m about to tell you.”)

As we tiptoe into the only month of the New England year brave enough to stand for what summer is all about, I — a bona fide Southerner who grew up without a whiff of home-installed air conditioning, ever — am here for you with helpful ways to survive the heat. It still entertains me tremendously, recalling the emergency management alert we got in Ashfield last summer, warning that the thermometer was going to reach 90 degrees, while the previous winter’s record temperature of minus 35 degrees — the kind of cold where going out to get the morning paper could result in death — was treated with shrugged shoulders.

And I have to say, y’all are lucky to have me here to help you out with this. I just made a quick jaunt to North Carolina for a family gathering and found those modern, 21st century Southerners now keep their thermostats at (and I’m not making this up) 55 degrees in the summer. House after house that I had, fortunately, brought enough Ashfield-winter-learned layers of clothing to enter, left me appalled at what those folks have un-learned about their heritage. Y’all! You’re Southerners! Act like it and turn that AC off, or at least, down!

When I was 10, I remember telling my mother that we needed air conditioning. My mother (who was from Ohio, but who had assimilated) said, “No, I like being connected to the outside with the windows open, listening to the birds sing.” I assimilated that idea and have saved mountains of cooling money with it ever since.

And I am here to share with you, How to Stay Happy in the Summertime. Especially since so many of the houses that you live in here in Western Massachusetts were not born with air conditioning. (Note: While nary three months ago Norm Nye declared to me that “Global Wahrmin’ can’t come fast enough,” when it did show up for a few blessed bona fide hot days last month, he threw in the towel and admitted he couldn’t take it.)

I keep hearing this idea around here that, when it gets hot, you leave your windows closed to keep the heat out. Y’all, that’s just a loose translation of how you stay warm in the winter. The human body was designed to stay cool in moving air. Open those windows up and put a fan in the window. It doesn’t have to blow directly on you (though, what is more pleasant than a brisk breeze when it’s really hot?) But take off those jackets that you put on because that’s what you know to do in extreme weather (y’all entertain me — in a good way — with your shorts in 30-degree weather and long sleeves in summer) and put on that sleeveless shirt you got while you were on vacation in Florida.

Humidity is merely a warm caress of love that lets you know the weather gods are anointing you with sweat that cools you off in the breeze of the fan you just put in the window. (See how this works? Summer weather keeps you at the right temperature naturally, all by itself. Winter weather comes at you like a knife in a dark alley, just waiting for you to let your guard down or run out of heating oil.)

And summer is what sweet tea was designed for: sitting out under a big tree with your best friend, gossiping about the neighbors. You can add alcohol to that tea as well, and make the tale-telling even more fun. This is the time when you can comfortably relax and use the convenient heat as a reason not to do anything else. No jumping up to put logs on the fire or anything dutiful. Just sit outside with a glass of whatever you like and enjoy that breezy downtime.

Soon enough it’ll be mid-August and you can breathe a comfortable New England sigh of “Get Ready for Winter” again. The leaves will be turning orange and the night air will get down into the cozy 40s.

But for now, in this happy, sweaty month of July, I want you to know that I am here for you, full of advice and sweet tea and really good gossip about everybody because that’s also what we specialize in down South. Just come on over. I’m the one in the fresh-painted yellow and orange Caribbean-looking house.

I hope you see this helpful advice on keeping yourself alive in July as an appreciative return for your letting me stay here and keeping me warm, among you, all winter long.

Nan Parati lives and works in Ashfield, where she found home and community following Hurricane Katrina. She can be reached at NanParati@aol.com.


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