I dropped my bag and purse on the kitchen counter and dragged myself into the family room. The morning’s bootcamp had delivered the rigorous workout it promised, but left me looking a mess. Coated in a thin layer of dirt, shirt heavy with sweat, and blood still seeping from a few scrapes on palms and a knee, I didn’t want to mar the furniture with myself, but still wanted to gather myself before falling into the shower.
I spread my towel on the carpet, dropped to the floor, rolled onto my back, and pushed the button on the remote control switching on the oscillating high velocity fan that, coupled with the energetic ceiling fan and central air conditioning, delivered cooling comfort on this 95 degree day. I closed my eyes and let the waves of refreshing wash over me.
The only sound was the whir of the fan as it swept back and forth. My mind drifted. Fans, hurricanes, Richard Nixon…they all fit together in one particular July and August of my youth. That summer we had been driven out of our home by extensive damage and flooding from a hurricane. My grandparents welcomed us to their home, which stood on higher ground.
Back in the days of only three television channels, the Watergate hearings consumed all of day time TV. Although I wasn’t particularly interested in politics, Richard Nixon became as reluctantly familiar to me as Mike and Carol Brady. The floodwaters still lapped up to the front porch, so our activities were confined indoors.
The only oasis of refuge from the steamy South Texas heat was the air conditioned front room, and that was tempered by my frugal grandfather’s desire to keep the electric bill down. Even through the warmth, I systematically devoured the books from my grandma’s large library, and when only a few of those remained, I set into my grandfather’s Southwest Cattle Breeder and Dallas Cowboy Today magazines.
While the days were filled with Nixon, reading, and trying to stay cool, the nights became a treat to me.
My sister and I shared a large back bedroom there. The house had been built many decades before with the heat in mind, and so the large banks of windows that could be cranked open stretched forth wide into the night air. Screens kept the mosquitoes out but lured in the intoxicating late evening aromas of the gardenias my grandma cultivated under them. And if I turned my head just right, I could see vast reaches of stars through the treetops.
In our own modern house tightly sealed for central air conditioning, I never heard any of the night sounds, but here they were a symphony beginning at sundown each evening. The cattle lowed nearby as they settled in for the evening and then the coyotes picked up the call with their drawling howls. The frogs croaked their contentment while the crickets chirred in harmony.
The two old fashioned oscillating fans we turned on each night before jumping into bed whirred with gentlest tranquility. My grandma told me she’d bought them new, back in the late 1930’s, even before they had electricity in the house, because she so looked forward to feeling the soft breeze from them. And now, laying there in the dark, lulled by the finest of outdoor concerts, the sweet anticipation of the coming drafts of cool air from those fans was enough to make my sister fall asleep almost immediately.
I, though, loved to stay awake longer, just to enjoy the swaths of exquisite, unflappable breeze from them. And sometimes, sometimes, when those fans were on just the right course, set at just the correct angles, the air streams converged at exactly the same time on me. Magic, pure and unrivaled.
I don’t remember much about political scandals and weather disasters. But ask me about two little oscillating fans and I can tell you much.