June 21, 2012

a most pleasant drone

Our house sounds like a wind tunnel, on this second day of summer.

I remember a friend using that phrase, "wind tunnel", to describe their house, post-flooding, as the insurance company set up serious airflow control to dry out the rooms.  She didn't sound particularly affectionate when she said it.

For me, though, the whir of fans is a pleasant noise, somnolent and nostalgic.

I remember sleeping in my grandma's ancient guest bed, the one with the headboard that went on forever, with a reading lamp centered conveniently above my head.  It was summer, hot, the curtains drifting lazily in and out in the recalcitrant breeze.  But I, I had a breeze:  a weighty box fan set on a kitchen chair mere feet from my restless body, blowing ceaselessly across me and the off-white candlewick bedspread.

That night epitomizes my grandma for me.  I got a nosebleed, I think, and went down the dark stairs to find her.  She was still awake, in her nightclothes.  She gave me tissues, rubbed my back, and heated milk and honey on the stove.  I drank love from that mug, hot and sweet.  And then I went back up the stairs to my fan and slept like a baby.

Fans make me think, too, of my father:  sometimes minister, sometimes grammar police, sometimes physics teacher to his children.  Always a safe place - even the kittens knew, somehow.  He taught me all I needed to know about airflow:  on a hot night, set a box fan in an open window, blowing out.  It blew my childish mind, to think of "wasting" that air, blowing it out into the night when I wanted it blowing on me!  But look! go to a window on the other side of the house, and feel! the air is coming in there, cool and fresh!  Turn the fan off, and the breeze magically stops.  On, and it's back!

I remember a summer spent volunteering in northeast Georgia between college years.  We'd take cold showers just before retiring to bed, and then lie in our loft beds, trying to feel benefit from a small oscillating fan hung from the ceiling, the damp of the shower turning into the damp of fresh sweat.

And nights now, many years later, too hot to sleep despite sprawling in minimal nightwear under the ceiling fan:  I should be miserable (and sometimes am) but instead feel the excitement of a slumber party, remembering the day in muted voices, laughing over something the children said or did, all to the reassuring soundtrack of the box fan in the window.

: : :

If the heat stays too long, we'll probably abandon the fans in favor of window units.  But, curmudgeons that we are, we like to hold out as long as we can.  Here, we don't mind a little whirring.  We like our fans.

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