Roast or Freeze

Late last night before collapsing in bed, I detour to the kids’ room to check them. And it’s a good thing. I crack the door releasing a billowing cloud of damp, hot air. I step into a dark tropical rainforest. All that’s missing is the sound of birds and night life.

A humidifier — Martin’s most recent Bed, Bath and Beyond acquisition — is whirling away. It’s teamed up with the space heater that’s so hot, it curls plaster, the room is cooking. It’s close to 88 degrees. In their sleep, the kid wear a sweaty sheen.

Welcome to another ide on the seasonal ride on the heating roller coaster. Roast or freeze. Take your pick.

I grew up in a suburban split-level rancher and never gave heating or cooling the slightest thought except when Dad shouted, “Shut that door, we’re not air conditioning the outdoors!” I didn’t know where it came from.¬†Heating and central AC shared a ghostlike existence and each room was equally temperate, magically and silently warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Those metal, louvered registers in each room? I knew that if I pasted my ear up against them, I could hear my parents’ conversation in the kitchen.

Around here, heating and cooling are much more conspicuous.¬†As I write this, the furnace growls awake and our old pine floor boards tremble. Everyone here is keenly aware of the heat. You can’t miss the gurgling of water that makes the radiators sound like they ate something that didn’t agree with them. And that sharp snake-like hiss of steam. In the depth of winter the furnace awakens a few hours before sunrise, the pipes emitting a steady clank. When it sounds like someone’s striking the pipes with a wrench, I know I’ve got an hour of sleep to go. It’s the alarm clock before the alarm clock.

The kids don’t wax poetic about the heat, but they appreciate it. The first place isn’t for ambiance. When it crackles to life everyone relocates their toys, their lap tops and camps out in “the fireplace room.” And when the winter wind pulls at the house, I’ve seen Brynn standing by the radiator, cooking her hands over the pipes.

I’d like to say that with awareness comes appreciation. But the kids don’t value the radiators — or the a/c window units — any more than I did, simply because they are louder. The bottom line is that kids are actually pretty adaptable. They can sweat in the summer and freeze in the winter, and frankly, they don’t care.