Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When Doing Without is a Blessing

The bloodless battle begins each evening around 5:30 when black wingtips walk through the door, wide heels tapping loudly against shiny hardwood planks before pausing at the thermostat, then continuing to their resting place on bottom tier of husband's childhood bookshelf.

Around midnight, we wordlessly call a truce until moon and sun rise and fall once more to begin another few hours of battle, progressing through this weekday cycle until the weekend when the back and forth volleys are continuous.

Each time husband comes in out of the Louisiana heat, he walks a ruler-straight line to the digital thermostat and presses the down arrow until the number 75 appears. After re-hydrating, stopping the sweaty hemorrhaging of water from the body, he goes back outside, air conditioner still compressing the air to refrigerated temperatures best used for hanging meat.

Minutes later, I am feeling the need to pull out my winter jacket or, at a minimum, take refuge in heavy jeans and a long sleeve shirt. My feet follow in husband's footsteps to check if it's just me (it rarely is).

Back up to 80 it goes.

Unlike some battles where angry words are like poisoned darts, aimed precisely to do the most damage possible, then regretted in the damaged aftermath, our battle over the thermostat is filled with more humor than anything.

Most Saturdays, we wordlessly pass the box on the wall. He presses the down; I press the up --back and forth, up and down, an endless tennis match with little emotion and even less thought.

Sometimes by the end of a day's match, husband will speak of it, eyes twinkling as he exclaims it's sweltering in here, then smilingly claim there must be a ghost in our house. Other times, I will refer to our house as the arctic and bundle up in a blanket for great effect.

This past weekend, husband and I worked together past the noon hour when it is prudent to go indoors. As we two mulched trees and flower beds to protect tender roots underground, the fiery sun finally got to the point where it seemed to be aimed like a stage light inches from my skin.

I asked him how he could stand it, this heat, when he was constantly turning our thermostat to frigid. His response came easily. "I was raised in the hayfield. And I promised myself that if I ever had a house of my own one day, I wouldn't have to sweat in it."

His insistence on a cold house--I finally understood...and I could relate.

For six years of marriage before this past year, husband and I sweated in houses that lacked any shred of insulation, where window units were only turned on when rare company came over or at night for sleeping.

I remember coming home from work to a mercury reading of 90 degrees, when it was hotter inside than out in the yard. I know what it's like to wake up to a 38 degree house where I can see my breath in frost as I rock and feed my babies, me shivering in layers before the living room's undersized propane heater.

This being uncomfortable, though--it's been such a blessing. I am shaking my head, knowing that only through the lack have husband and I both come to appreciate what many take for granted.

I honestly feared I would forget, grow complacent once we moved here into our sealed, climate-controlled home. But, that hasn't happened.

One year later, I still remember. And I am still thankful.

Photo: Saturday afternoon worn-out husband enjoying central air while loving our newest addition, Hannah.


  1. Your thankful heart radiates in this place. This is a great lesson in gratitude, for those times when things get a little hot under the collar. (Or in your case, a bit too chilly!)

    It was a joy to feature this story among our Featured Posts this week at TheHighCalling.org. You consistently produce great work, and we're delighted to have your voice in the community.

  2. I wear three layers most of the summer, trying to keep the house comfortable "enough" here in the Testosterone Zone. Good to know I'm not the only one who shivers in the heat. (I might have to use your name in vain with the guys, Jennifer. ;-)

    Great to see you featured at THC. And smiling to know you've all settled into the place you waited so long, and patiently, for.

  3. Is this another universal women's struggle, the thermostat-setting contest?

    Our coatrack hangs right next to the thermostat. I keep an assortment of gear there. :)

  4. And on another note, with a drop in temperatures overnight, my house is wide open today with a 60 degree breeze blowing through. The men are complaining that it's too cold.

  5. It rained last night, and the drop from upper 90s to lower 80s left me in goosebumps. I'm with your men, Lyla and would be shutting windows, too.

    Sheila: I love the coat rack idea. Just wait till I hit menopause--maybe husband will be the one putting the coat rack next to the thermostat!

  6. Nice post, Jennifer. It was good for me to read, especially because both my husband and I are such cheapskates at heart and so we're mostly in agreement about temperature (when in doubt, the A/C is off). I've gotten so used to warmth that I feel like I'm contacting Pneumonia when I go into stores with a/c! I know, what a wimp. (Truth be told, I still don't like sitting at the computer in a sweat puddle, like I am right now...) That said, I recently blogged about central air conditioning being a way that we unknowingly "insulate" ourselves from our communities, and looking back on it now, I think your post is much more balanced than mine was. And fair. And compassionate.

    Thank you!

    PS I found you through the High Calling Blog Community. And your blog directed me to BookSneeze... win-win for me! :)

  7. Just came over from HCB. great post! ~Jessica

  8. Not a wimp, Elizabeth--I get used to no AC during the day so it's frigid when I go somewhere cool (like shopping or church!). At nights, I have a fleece blanket to snuggle under so husband can be cool enough. I truly love your idea about insulating ourselves from our communities--if it were less comfortable in our homes, we'd definitely be outside on the porch more, with our neighbors.