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Summer memories of keeping cool

The Jacksons from the July 19, 2018 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator

cartoon image of a family seated at a table

The best thing about it,” Brady Jackson said as he set his beer down on the arm of the Adirondack chair in which he was seated in Andrew and Rose’s sunroom, next to his wife Amanda, “is that our walks with Rover are way shorter than usual. Yesterday when I took him out late in the afternoon we got about 30 feet down the driveway and he was like, ‘nope, no way, I’m going back in the house where it’s cool, this is ridiculous.’ Normally he refuses to go back home if we haven’t been out for at least half an hour.”

“Huskies are such wimps,” said Jennifer, who was sitting across the room from Brady. “Always complaining about something.”

“He never complains about the cold,” said Brady. “He’ll ask to go out in the yard in -30° and then he’ll stay out there for two hours digging in the snow. Hunting for mice. He does that thing I saw foxes doing on that National Geographic show, where they leap into the air and dive head first into the snow. Michaela watches from the window and just giggles.”

“Of course he’s not gonna complain about the cold,” said Jennifer. “He’s a husky. He’s built for the cold. Alan’s golden retriever doesn’t complain about either the cold or the heat. She’ll stay out as long as you let her, regardless.”

“Yeah OK,” said Brady, “but let’s face it, retrievers aren’t that bright.”

“True enough,” said Jennifer.

“I’m with Rover on this one,” said Rose, who was seated on the wicker loveseat with Andrew, nursing a glass of iced lemonade. “It’s too hot to be outside. Seriously, it’s too hot to even go to the beach.”

“Oh pshaw,” said Andrew. “It’s a mere 34°. That’s a paltry 93 in real degrees. Fahrenheit, I mean. I remember when I was a kid, the temperature went up to 104 one day and my father put a piece of black sheet metal on the ground in the sun and fried an egg on it in three minutes flat.” He pointed outside, where you could see the heat waves radiating from the steel cover of the gas barbecue on the deck. “This is nothing.”

“Let me guess, Dad,” said Jennifer. “You had no air conditioning when you were a kid.”

Andrew laughed derisively. “Air conditioning?” he said. “We didn’t have air conditioning till 1992. When it went to 104° my dad dragged all our mattresses into the basement and we slept on the floor down there. It was cool in the basement. But you practically couldn’t breathe in the second-floor bedrooms. If it was 104° outside, it was at least 120 upstairs in the house.” He paused and took a sip of beer. “Thank goodness we at least had a freezer,” he said. “I can still hear in my head the sound of the ice cubes in the glass pitcher when Mom stirred the sugar into the Kool-Aid.” He smiled at the memory. “Sometimes, she’d put baking soda into the Kool-Aid to add fizz, because we were too poor to buy pop. What a treat that was.”

“Wow,” said Brady. “You had a rough childhood, didn’t you Dad? No AC and no cold Pepsi?”

“Can you seriously add fizz to Kool-Aid just by dumping in baking soda?” asked Amanda.

“You can, absolutely,” said Andrew. “Maybe you have to add other stuff too. I don’t remember. I just remember it tasted like cream soda.”

There was a brief lull in the conversation.

“Well anyway,” said Rose, “it’s pretty warm out there today.”

“I can’t even imagine trying to keep a kid happy in a house with no AC when it’s this hot,” said Amanda, looking over at Michaela, who was happily playing with a Fisher-Price airplane on the floor.

“Try keeping six kids happy in a house with no air conditioning,” said Andrew. “It helps to have a dugout full of cold water you can throw them into, that’s for sure.”

“Your parents threw you into the dugout?” said Jennifer.

“Well, not until we knew how to swim,” said Andrew. “Obviously. But yeah, we spent a lot of time in the dugout when it was really hot out.”

“So you basically had a swimming pool,” said Brady.

“Basically,” said Andrew.

Brady looked over at Jennifer. “Dad’s always complaining about how tough his childhood was, but he basically had a swimming pool! Can you believe that?”

“That’s how you ruin your own credibility Dad,” said Jennifer. “Complain about how your parents had to cool you off when you were a kid, by throwing you into the swimming pool!”

“Dugout,” said Andrew. “Full of tadpoles, water beetles and occasionally garter snakes.”

“And water,” said Brady. “Don’t forget the water.”

Andrew smiled. “I don’t think I ever will,” he said.

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