Who needs air conditioning, anyway?

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My family only uses our air conditioner once a year.

AC is expensive, my mom points out every year as the summer falls upon us like an unwelcome house guest.

We do run it at least once, of course, just to make sure it still works. But we save it for that miserable night in the middle of October when the Indian Summer is in full swing and the rest of the continent (except for maybe Arizona) is enjoying the beginnings cozy, colorful autumn.

The rest of the summer, all five months of it, we jimmy-rig our house in a crazed attempt to beat the heat.

My family only uses our air conditioner once a year.

AC is expensive, my mom points out every year as the summer falls upon us like an unwelcome house guest.

We do run it at least once, of course, just to make sure it still works. But we save it for that miserable night in the middle of October when the Indian Summer is in full swing and the rest of the continent (except for maybe Arizona) is enjoying the beginnings cozy, colorful autumn.

The rest of the summer, all five months of it, we jimmy-rig our house in a crazed attempt to beat the heat.

My dad leads the charge on this. Heis usually up before the rest of the family, brewing the coffee and feeding the fish. He goes about shuttering the windows and closing doors to keep the cool morning air inside and to beg off the oppressive sunshine that begins knocking on the side of our house as early as 8:30 a.m.

My parents both have green thumbs – mom likes flowers, dad likes succulents — and they transformed our modest patio space into a veritable jungle. It is aesthetically pleasing, to be sure – although the homeowners association has made us cut back our aggressively friendly bushes on more than one occasion – but the real joy is the shade it gives us.

The plants crawl along our east-facing wall, eating up the rays of sunlight that would otherwise be burning holes into our domicile.

By 10 a.m., the house has been completely darkened. Every crack and cranny is boarded and closed. No natural lighting is allowed.

Some rooms of the house do better than others. In general, the kitchen stays pretty cool – thanks in part to the patio and in part to the tile floor.

When we were kids, mom would keep Otter Pops in the freezer for us, but those have been gone a long time now.

We also used to patronize our pool more frequently than we seem to have time for now.

As kids, the neighborhood pool was pretty much the gem of summer. Mom would take us down there for hours every afternoon and then we would return again after dinner.

I always assumed she did this because she is an A+ mother who knows how to show her children a good time. In hindsight, she probably took us down there so often because it wore us out and we would fall straight to sleep in the evenings. Though, really, any mom who can figure out how to induce naturally early bedtimes still definitely qualifies as an A+ mother.

And she will always be the queen of summer in my mind.

The upper story of our house starts to get stuffy around 4 p.m. and its occupants tend to buckle under the pressure. The debate then is whether to sacrifice the temperature for a breeze or maintain the mild heat levels in a lock box with recycled oxygen.

If I am home when the debate takes place, I vote to open the windows.

The evening hours are nice. The earth begins to cool off and we get a pleasant sea-breeze off the ocean (not that it comes straight from the ocean, it meanders its way through most of National City first).

Mom insists that this breeze is the best thing about where we live. She is probably not wrong.

When the sun sets around eight o’clock, dad goes back around the house and opens all the windows and doors. He turns on the fans to get the air circulating and, if mom is not present to witness, we bust out the ice cream.

Dad made ice cream an art form for us, his seven children, and he is largely responsible for my eclectic tastes these days.

Most notably, he embellishes his ice cream with dried oats, the kind you make oatmeal with. Peanuts and coconut and, on the grand occasion when we were feeling fancy, popcorn would all make it onto our ice cream.

It was quite the bedtime snack.

Some of us stay up late, unable to sleep in the heat, and some of us go to bed early, hoping to dream chilly dreams.

I land somewhere in the middle. There are plenty of better things to do with a summer night than sleep it away, and it could be so much worse. It could be that one night in October.

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