How did our ancestors deal with summer in the days before AC? One of the craziest inventions I’ve seen is a kerosene powered fan—that turned out to be not such a winner of an idea. Go figure! Soaked burlap sacks hung in front of windows was another trick. Need some trivia for the office water cooler? Check out this fascinating look at the history of AC from author Amanda Green in Popular Mechanics:
Of course here in the high desert we’re blessed with cool nights so opening every window in the house at night helps hold the heat hounds at bay the next day. This backfired on us once when we also opened the doors to speed up the process. One word.
“Did you hear about the bat?” began a recent conversation with my daughter, who was overseas at the time. Since my grown kids often communicate through FaceBook I’m never sure what family news they’ve already heard. The conversation proceeded something like this: “Uh, no— What bat???” “Our house bat, Silly!“
One summer night we opened all the house doors to cool things down because the air conditioning wasn’t hooked up yet. About 10 in the evening my college age son and I were sitting on the couch goofing around online. My husband had gone to bed after working hard out in the field all day. Observant Son glanced up and exclaimed, “Hey, there’s a bird in the house!” I took one look and yelped, “No, that’s a bat!” The airborne rodent flew, really well I might add, all over the house and we could not get it out. I consider myself a fairly unflappable person but the bat was becoming more frenzied by the minute.
Finally, I sat down with my back against the wall as the bat was doing aerial loops and flybys, sharing much the same space as me. My husband must have heard me squeal; he stumbled sleepily out and tried to help us herd it outside. He stood there with the bat zooming around his head, asking, “Where is it?” We were laughing too hard to tell him and just kept pointing. Eventually, we thought we saw it fly out, calmed down and went back to bed.
Not the end of the story. About four in the morning I heard our cat rummaging around the room. I got up, shuffled over to the corner and all the noise stopped. Couldn’t find her in the dark so after growling at her to “Git!” I went back to bed. This went on about every 15 minutes until five in the morning.
Finally, about 5:30 she began leaping and scrambling around next to my side of the bed. I grabbed a pillow to fling at her and opened my eyes. It was not the cat. The missing bat was flopping around on the floor, its sharp little claws stuck in the rug, confused. I sat bolt upright and started shouting orders to my husband, who had been sleeping soundly. The bat managed to disentangle its claws and went airborne causing my husband to duck frantically and me to start laughing. I’m afraid I don’t always laugh at the most appropriate times.
The bat disappeared again and we finally gave up looking for it. Later that night we returned from dinner out and walked through the house trying to startle it out of hiding by clapping and calling “Here bat, here bat!” Felt ridiculous. Finally, we just went to bed, exhausted after the disrupted sleep of the night before. We never saw our houseguest again, I assume he let himself out.
Teaching, talking, sharing
Our imperfect fathers do the best they can and shape who we become, our potential to develop as individuals. They challenge us, love us, and impact our souls forever.
There’s great truth in this statement by Margaret Truman:
“It’s only when you grow up and step back from him—or leave him for your own home—it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it.”
Most families have a list of “Dad-isms” that cause a lot of laughter, groaning and shaking of heads. My favorite its “Leave things better than you found them.” Applies to pretty much every area of life. What famous dad quotes live on in your family?
Memory List for my Dad
Adventurous—shared love for travel
Taught me to see beauty in nature –and took me places to find it
Said, “You can do it” at crucial times
Discussed good books, new ideas
Battered Hats and scuffed boots
Singing “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie” at the top of our lungs together
Backpacking and fishing trips
Teaching me how to catch a trout—and get it ready to eat
Fried potatoes in a cast iron skillet—elk camp in the mountains
Riding out of the mountains by moonlight on horseback. Seeing my dad’s battered cowboy hat and lanky frame ahead of me on the trail. Knowing I just had to follow him and I’d be okay.(this I will never forget)
Teaching me to drive the truck picking up hay in the field
The way his eyes crinkle up at a good joke
Trying to teach me to back up a vehicle—still not too good at this Popper Tops
Teaching me to ride the motorcycle—all good till I popped a wheelie (still one of my best memories)
June is National Country Cooking Month. This is a really fun one to celebrate as many of our life memories revolve around food. You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate the connection with family—Grandma’s favorite recipe, the special dessert Mom would make for your birthday that made you feel loved, Dad’s camping creations. At a local school Ag day here in southern New Mexico one little boy responded to the question “What is in tamales?” with a loud and enthusiastic “Love!” He gets it!
Smells can evoke tremendous emotion and the smell of food– good, bad or just yuck—often spark intense memories. There is a unique Asian spice that when I smell it takes me straight back to the apartment building my husband and I lived in during college. I was expecting our first child and had to climb the stairwell gauntlet through that strange and permeating odor during months of morning sickness. The unsuspecting and very nice international students living there never knew. I’m sure they were wonderful cooks but Oi–that smell!
There is an entire range of FOOD FOR THOUGHT stemming from food memories. Mine them for nuggets of delicious stories and dig further back. Particularly if you have some unique ethnic foods that your family enjoys—we probably all do. Where did Grandma’s carne adovada recipe come from, did she learn it from her mother? Maybe its Uncle Tony’s lasagna or that favorite chocolate or buttermilk pie that shows up at every family gathering. What are that dish’s roots and the family events it’s starred at?
Tip—when talking with a relative ask them the story of their favorite food. Why is that dish important? Whom is it associated with? When is a specific time they remember eating it? Who made it? Does this person still prepare this food and if so, is it in the same way? Is there a family cookbook or even a collection of family recipes?
I can remember poring over my mother in law’s extensive recipe collection as a newlywed. Her southern recipes and tastes are what my husband had grown up with and I hadn’t learned to cook those types of dishes. I still use a few of those recipes today and yes, I have learned to make a rockin’ southern gravy! My brother married into a Louisiana family with Cajun roots and he’s passed on the technique for creating a mouth-watering roux.
One of my memoir clients still has her great grandmother’s hand carved rolling pin. This simple food preparation tool has made piecrust for generations of the same family. Their holiday memories are tied to the special treats lovingly created with it. They talk about the many hands that have used it over the years and it is a cherished connection to their history.