Southern Summers

The key to surviving a Southern summer: fans, ladies, lots of fans in lots of places.

By Patti Parish-Kaminski, Publisher

It is widely acknowledged that Southern women are tough.  Call it genetics, life experience – certainly lessons learned from our matriarchs.  But perhaps the one thing that has made us tough generation after generation can be summed up in two words:  Southern summers.

Summers in the South are brutal; they are not for the faint at heart. And when you factor in the lack of central air conditioning, the summer sojourn gets real – real quick. Growing up, I spent every summer with my Mawmaw and Pawpaw in Northern Louisiana. I honestly do not remember at what age summer camp at Mawmaw’s started, but I do remember Mother putting me on a plane from Houston to Shreveport at six-years-old.

I loved those summers because my cousins were there. Otherwise as an only child, I would be either at home alone or worse, with the housekeeper who had “projects,” at the office with my parents or at the ranch with the cows. Now I like cows, but their ability to play paper dolls and board games was somewhat limited. In their defense, they did seem to enjoy me reading to them, and they listened with rapt admiration.

As much as I loved my summers in Bernice, there was one downside: Mawmaw’s house had no air conditioning. There were box fans, but they were rarely used. Electricity costs money, and there was no sense in wasting good money on something that simply moved air around. That was Mawmaw’s philosophy, and she was not one to be tried nor questioned. Whatever she said was gospel. I grew up thinking electricity had to be the most expensive thing ever – kind of like a Cadillac.

To say that it was hot those summers is an understatement of significant proportions. It was the sweltering, scorching, blistering heat, and life went on as normal. The oppressive temperature never stopped us, though it did slow us down at times. We forged ahead with the business of living each day with essentially no regard to the inferno of a Southern summer. The temperature in the kitchen easily exceeded 100 degrees on a daily basis, and Mawmaw cooked every day. Pawpaw would plow the garden or shoe horses in the morning and finish up just in time for dinner before the temperature climbed to triple digits. For those not in the know, lunch is dinner and dinner is supper in the South. It’s an important distinction.

Mawmaw would watch her stories in the heat of the day while sewing and not miss a beat. Supper was served promptly at 5 pm in the scalding evening sun, and we were at the table every evening at the appointed time. And when Sunday morning rolled around, and it was time to get ready for church, a cloudy haze engulfed the bathroom so Mawmaw could get her girdle on while sweating buckets. The source of the haze? Copious amounts of baby powder to combat the glistening glow and provide a dry surface for the girdle-gettin’ on process.

No one really complained about the inferno. After all, what could possibly be done about typical summer weather? And life went on – as usual – every day without the slightest thought of climate-controlled air, also known as Southern comfort. Yes, that’s likely the reason there is a whiskey with that name because it was invented in New Orleans in 1874 – pre-air conditioning.

That ability to completely dismiss an uncomfortable environment while living life is called having grit – or what I like to refer to as “Girls Raised in the South” when you add the “s.” I like to think that I have grit – like Mawmaw did – that I can withstand uncomfortable obstacles and forge ahead victoriously. But recently I’ve had to rethink my status. It seems that as I have gotten older, my internal furnace is heating up to the point that I’m having issues putting on my make-up each morning. It appears that my inner glow is escaping making my face is a bit too dewy. Really, it’s downright slick with sweat more times than not, and it is on my nerves. So that sweet Mr. Kaminski observed my dewy dilemma. First, he did not utter a syllable about the perspiring predicament as any gentleman who prefers to live should. Then he purchased a compact little device that when filled with water, emits the coolest, most refreshing air and placed it next to my make-up mirror – again without comment. Yes, my friends, silence is not only golden; it will keep your husband among the living.

See y’all next week – on the porch!


Patti Parish-Kaminski

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