Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Of Richard Nixon, Hurricanes, and Old Time Fans

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.




64 comments:

  1. First...I'd much prefer the Mike and Carol Brady.

    But your saga of the fans, the night air, the perfume of gardens below the window...all comes together in my own imagination and I enjoy every minute.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HOOTIN ANNI: Any time I smell gardenias or see one of those little old fans, it takes me straight back to that summer (and not to Tricky Dick.)

      Delete
  2. Really enjoyed this trip down memory lane. You painted vivid pictures here. I love politics and have read extensively about Watergate. I cannot even imagine how it saturated the TV! Probably the closest modern-day parallel would have been the Lewinski Scandal but even that probably paled in comparison.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Optimistic: I was too young to fully understand all of Watergate, but those hearings were all that was on tv during the daytime. For a kid, that was no fun at all!

      Delete
  3. Hi, Shelly! I have similar childhood memories. The house in which I grew up did not have air conditioning. In the 1950s, a/c was considered a luxury and few homes in our neighborhood had it. Our house had windows similar to yours. They opened wide, extended outward at nearly a 90 degree angle, and offered excellent ventilation. On hot days when there was no breeze, a large electric fan provided blissful relief. At bedtime that fan was my best friend, its constant droning the familiar lullaby that put me to sleep every night. The cool air drawn into my bedroom through the screens was filled with the scent of Chrysanthemums. The opportunity to drift off under these natural conditions and to sleep deeply, soundly, peacefully and free of worry without the need for air conditioning and sleeping pills, was a luxury few people have today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shady: What a wonderful, wonderful description, my friend. And you are so right- it IS a luxury. That kind of peace you can't get from a bottle, or a pill, or even exercise. I wish I could gift wrap it and give it as a present.

      Delete
  4. A lovely and lovingly written nostalgia piece is just the ticket! I can hear the frogs and crickets as the breeze wafts across the room, the starry skies providing a soothing visual accompaniment. Yes, those were the days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. vanilla: There's nothing like those sounds, sights, and aromas~

      Delete
  5. What a wonderful piece with such beautiful sensory details. Felt like I was right there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda: I still love to close my eyes and go there. I think that's why it's still so vivid to me~

      Delete
  6. Replies
    1. Mountaingmom: I consider them a great blessing to have~

      Delete
  7. This brought back so many memories. Perhaps those hot humid Kansas days and nights contributed to my being such a big reader. Oh those fans! Didn't you just love them? I think there was also the thrill of knowing they could chop a finger off quickly and efficiently....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bossy Betty: Oh, I can so remember my mom warning me not to let my little brother stick his hand in them (he was only about three at the time) because he'd cut off all his fingers!

      Delete
  8. It's funny how a little thing like a fan can bring up so many memories!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sherry: And when those little things trigger something so wonderful, it's a great thing!

      Delete
  9. Ack! Shelly, you're making me dread our summer heat already! We are getting hotter and hotter summers here, and most homes are not air conditioned. We rely on fans for relief, and in very recent years, one window air conditioner. I can't even imagine how those in more southerly regions survived before air conditioning, before fans, before electricity ...

    Beautifully written. I can feel the heat and the breeze, smell the flowers and hear the frogs and crickets. That's good writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. jenny_o: We haven't even hit the dog days of summer yet and already had a day that it was 109 F. As much as I loved those little fans, I would not be able to sleep at night now without air conditioning!

      Delete
    2. This brings back a lot of memories. My grandmother had those fans, too. Only she grew roses instead of gardenias.

      Delete
    3. Carol: Ahh, I love memories like that!

      Delete
  10. It's funny how the smallest, simplest details and memories stay with us the longest. I loved this - I felt like I was in that room with you, breathing in the lovely aroma of gardenias on a hot summer night. When we ride our bikes at night, there is a particular yard we pass that has night blooming jasmine, and the aroma is very strong as we ride by. Heaven!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. karen: Oh, I would have to quit riding and just go inhale!!!

      Delete
  11. So beautifully written, as always. How well I remember the days of Watergate on TV. We were so glad when the networks decided to take turns with the coverage. Our soap operas were back! We watched all the soaps on CBS on the days we didn't go swimming in the officers' club pool.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Janie: Oh, swimming at the o club- now that brings some great memories to me, too!

      Delete
  12. I hate air conditioning, really. One good thing about the British weather is that we don't usually need it (or have it). There's something wonderful about hearing sounds and smelling scents from outside in the summer, in the countryside.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenny: It just doesn't seem right anymore to have a house all shut up. Too much good to smell and hear~

      Delete
  13. I loved reading this personal memory from your past. It isn't the big things we remember; it's the tiny little details.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stephen: I am convinced the stuff of life is in the details.

      Delete
  14. I wear sweaters even in summer time. So, for me air conditioner is somewhat a night mare. Fans on the other hand make you feel welcome in a room. Thanks for sharing some nice memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Munir: There's nothing like a gentle fan blowing, is there?

      Delete
  15. This took me back to my own childhood. Yes, I remember the days of having to watch whatever was on TV because that was all you had. I also remember trying to sleep in my grandmother's trailer with one of those darn oscillating fans. I couldn't sleep because I kept waiting for it to spin back around and blow air on me. Too distracting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stephanie: Ha! We had opposite experiences with the same thing!

      Delete
  16. What I know about Nixon is bugga all, I know more about the Bradys

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jo-Anne: And you are all the better for it!

      Delete
  17. Isn't it interesting how we can trigger memories from our youth? I remember watching some of the things going on with the Richard Nixon hearings, because you are right, there was nothing on. I tried to make sense of it, if anyone could even make sense of it. I bet the oscillating fans were soothing as you laid there, drifting off to sleep......

    betty

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. betty: It's such a wonderful feature of our brains, that something small can trigger such good things. And there's nothing like those old fans~

      Delete
  18. Oh, I am not so familiar with that political scandal of president Nixon. But I was SO attached with your memory of the day. Haha, I wish I could see that oscillating fans of yours and compare with our old electric fan p;)
    I loved to read your share of tiny but deep in mind memory, my dear friend Shelly♡♡♡

    Sending you Lots of Love and Hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. orchid Miyako: I don't think you are missing much by not being familiar with Richard Nixon, my dear friend! Those old electric fans not only gave us breeze and comfort, but peace and tranquility as well. I hope you are feeling better! xo

      Delete
  19. This is delicious writing! Your memory just became a refuge for me today. It is a delightful gift to visit you as a child, and through your telling, remember the night sounds in my own childhood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenny: Thank you, friend! These new fangled high velocity, computerized fans are a marvel, but I wouldn't mind going back to the old ones. They were a refuge of tranquility, no doubt. Thank you for your kind words!

      Delete
  20. Oh, what a lovely little piece, Shelly. No hurricanes here, but it brought me back to my grandparents' farm, the screens with Kleenex stuffed in the holes in the screens, three double beds to the girls' room three doubles to the boys room, the wind in the tall pines...

    :-) Thank you.

    Pearl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pearl: Ahhh...although not fully realized then, we were so rich, even in those early days, weren't we?

      Delete
  21. Dear Shelly, such a lovely posting. So quiet within itself even though the fans gently whirred. Thank you once again for sharing your gifts of observation and memory and writing with us. Peace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dee: Thank you, friend. Your words mean so much to me~

      Delete
  22. Ah, yes! We remember whatever we have focused on. Fans would have been high on my list, too. They still are, for that matter. Every summer. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rita: We use our ceiling fans 10 months out of the year!

      Delete
  23. I felt the setting as if I were there! I love window fans at night because they cool the house without shutting out the world. But when it's very hot many days in a row, they just circulate humid air.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Theresa: In our hot humid climate down here, I think I would die a slow death without fans and central air conditioning for ten months of the year~

      Delete
  24. Great writing Shelly...
    Great memories... The present somehow always seems to tie into the old. At my grandma's little "rancho" (you know, the one with the outhouse) it got very hot. The only cooling she had was a couple of fans and a lawn sprinkler on the roof, that supposedly helped keep the place cool. I have no idea if that worked or not. I think not. At night though, we'd either sleep with all the windows open to catch the breeze, or we'd sleep outside.

    This is what I love about your stories, they either make me feel, or they make me think, or they make me remember.
    Love your blog Shelly...

    ReplyDelete
  25. Pat: You don't know how much your kind words are appreciated. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  26. I find it lovely that you are satisfied with those simple pleasures. It's what makes a person content and likable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeanette: Simple pleasures are the best!

      Delete
  27. Jeanette, I am loving your blog. Visit my site, CHERDO ON THE FLIPSIDE tomorrow - I'm nominating you for a Versatile Blogger Award!

    Keep up the good work, girl!
    Cherdo
    www.cherdoontheflipside.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cherdo: I am flattered- thank you!

      Delete
  28. I loved your descriptions. I remember those days well.

    Congratulations on your Versatile Blogger Award!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Betty: Thank you! I will be back to visit your blog soon~

      Delete
  29. Just wanted to wave "howdy" and I hope all is well! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Optimistic: Howdy back at you, friend!

      Delete
  30. We have crickets eveRy night at 8:55 PM as an iPhone alarm. Cooper knows that it is just for him, to remind me to get his slice of cheese. We make a huge joyous raucus celebration eveRytime. He ignores aLL other alarms that it emits.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. esboston: Haha! I love his Pavlovian response, and your joyous celebration with him!

      Delete
  31. So I loved this post…as I do every post you share. I hope what I read on Diane's blog is not true. Hoping you are not following her lead? I know we keep up on FB but I do so love love love your writing, I think I will go into a funk. Y'all perhaps can just post less?
    Big hugs and don't you disappear without me knowing…xoxox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sush: Oh, my friend, your words truly touch me. You've been so faithful and kind here almost from the beginning and I appreciate every visit. I think I will probably come back here- I am hoping to have a little writing inspiration infect me. The last thing I want to do is put up boring stuff, and that's the path I fear I was headed down. I will still be checking in on my favorite blogs, like yours! xoxoxox

      Delete
  32. Hi, Shelly:

    You have this way of opening a door to your memories and having the reader walk through it and see, feel, and hear what you saw, felt, and heard. Just beautiful.

    I look forward to reading more of your work!

    Be well, my friend.

    Janette

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeanette: Thank you, my friend! I miss your blog....

      Delete

I love to hear from you! I also love to comment back.