August marks my 12-year anniversary as a Friars Hill resident. Only eight more years, and I’ll be considered a local! I still have a lot to learn: I can’t grow a proper garden, ride a four-wheeler or shoot a gun. Oh well, I know the roads like the backs of my hands, I can find spring water during a power outage and I’ve got some great running trails carved out over the mountain, so, I guess I’m doing okay.
I always get a little reminiscent around August, as I look back over the years I’ve spent in my home. I remember the first October I spent in Friars Hill. Tom, my spouse, had lived in our house for several years before I arrived, having built it from the ground up.
One particularly cool day, I mentioned to him that it was probably time to turn on the central heat, because it was getting pretty chilly at night.
“I don’t turn on the heat until Thanksgiving,” he said.
I’m pretty sure the look on my face said, “???” As in, “Do what?”
Thus began our first fight as cohabitants. I insisted that Thanksgiving was practically winter, and he insisted that October and November might as well be Indian summer.
See, Tom is a cowboy. Now, he doesn’t wear boots or a hat, and we only own two acres, mostly forest, and the only animals we have are kids, dogs and cats. He doesn’t ride a horse or rope cattle. But, he does drive a pickup truck, and he is, I guarantee you, a cowboy nonetheless.
For Tom, heat and air conditioning are luxuries. He is a man that works outside in the heat of summer and cold of winter; he says that artificial heating and cooling spoils his body and makes him weak. He might be right. I work inside at a desk. What do I know? (Perhaps this is what they mean by the “weaker sex.”)
Anyway, we knocked-down, dragged-out the argument over the central heat that cool October day. I won the argument, but only because I cheated by pointing to our 2-year-old daughter and telling him that regardless of his cowboy philosophy, she needed to be warm. It was a low blow, but it worked.
He’s eased up over the years – we now have two daughters, and bless his heart, he’s hopelessly outnumbered. The heat comes on when we girls get cold, and, honestly, I think he enjoys the comfort of warm air on a cool night. However, we still don’t have central air.
“We live in the mountains, and it’s only really hot a couple days out of the year,” he tells me every July, as I lie on the couch lamenting the heat. “We don’t need air conditioning.”
“The Earth’s getting hotter,” I argue back. “It’s not just a couple days anymore. It’s the entirety of July and August.”
Anyway, last Tuesday, I came home from work bound and determined to fry up some chicken, regardless of the sweltering temps. When I got home, I found Tom digging around in the basement.
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
“The air conditioner,” he said.
“Wait,” I said. “We have an air conditioner?”
“Oh yeah,” he said. “It’s a window unit.”
“How long have we had an air conditioner?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Since I lived in Jersey?” he said. Tom moved here from New Jersey in 2000.
I didn’t know what to think. On one hand, I was absolutely furious that he’d held out on me for so long. On the other hand, I was really excited, and I didn’t want to start an argument and distract him from installing it. So I went on about my business of frying chicken, giddy with excitement about the swamp cooler. I couldn’t believe my luck!
That night, as I relaxed in my bed, feeling the cool air as it drifted into our bedroom, I shot him the side-eye as he read his book next to me. Twelve years, I thought, and he’s still got some tricks up his sleeve.
It reminded me of when the derecho hit four years ago – we had been without electricity for three days when, on that third day, Tom said, “You know, I think I have a generator down in the basement.”
And Tuesday night, as I lay there looking at him out of the corner of my eye, the air conditioner pumping along, I had to wonder, what else does he have in the basement?