NOTE: This post was migrated on 10/5/21 from my substack after getting all of my blog moved to a secure host. If you are confused about why I wrote on substack for awhile, get your primer about my site being hacked and the ensuing chaos HERE.
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Listening to people from typically cold parts of the country give tips to people in Texas this week has stirred up all sorts of memories from my childhood.
I grew up in Tennessee where winters were not severe, but definitely not something you could weather without heat. And while you couldn’t say we didn’t have heat, compared to everyone else we knew it sure felt like that.
Our house was small and half of it was built in the 50s (Maybe?) and the other half was an addition my dad built after they bought the house in the lat 70s. The grand total of livable space was probably about 1,200+ square feet. The “new” half of the house has the living room, the ONE bathroom, and Dad’s bedroom. That was the half that had a baseboard heater along one wall and insulated walls. The older half, where my brother and my bedrooms were, had absolutely nothing to keep it warm.
Well…that’s an exaggeration. We had one of those old-school coil heaters that Dad would only let us turn on after sledding on snow days and on Christmas morning because we would be sitting in the back “living” area of the house to open presents. It put off a shit-ton of heat, so we would take turns sitting on it until you could feel your flesh sizzling. It was most definitely a severe fire hazard. Hence why it was only plugged in a few times a year.
My point? Our house was always cold in the winter. And a lot of the things I’ve been seeing advised to people this week is stuff we did as a norm. We kept a “warm room” in the house. It was the living room in the “addition” in the picture above, with the baseboard heater. Now, there was no way to shut it off from the kitchen, but it was closed off from everything else. And Dad wrapped pieces of 2×4 in carpet to make things to block under doorways to the garage or too the back bedrooms. There were also blankets/towels thrown over curtain rods in the winter to double up the protection from the windows.
Every bed had an electric blanket. Not ideal if the power goes out, obviously, but a salvation the rest of the time when the back bedrooms were so cold that you put off going to bed until the VERY LAST MINUTE. And THEN! When you went to bed, it was fully clothed with layers of thermal underwear on really cold nights. Hell…during really cold spells Dad would wear a toboggan around the house to stay warm. AND THEN…getting into bed you did the final and NECESSARY step in the STAY WARM routine. And every member of my family learned it on a winter visit.
Here’s what you did: You would get comfortable under the covers and then you pull them up over your head and then you breathe with BIG exhales for a few minutes. If you have the required 5-blanket minimum (that is not an exaggeration), then the blanket coverage will help trap the hot air from your breath to start the beginning of the warm cocoon that make it easier for you to sleep.
Of course, then the problem was then that you DID NOT WANT TO GET OUT OF BED in the morning. Honestly, it’s hard to motivate yourself to do much when you just want to stay under warm blankets. Showering was especially a difficult thing because being wet in a cold house SUUUUUCCCKS. But honestly, everything in a cold house sucked. Sometimes we would bundle up under blankets under that table above the baseboard heater to watch TV. Other times, just to keep our blood flowing, we would sit in the living room and throw a football around while we chatted. This was definitely something I remember more when Donnie and I would visit Dad as adults. Eliah has memories of that as well, just sitting around throwing ball with Dad to try to stay warm in our cold AF house.
I remember my first winter in the dorm rooms my freshman year in college and I felt like the rooms were kept waaaaaay too warm. I was sleeping in shorts and a tank top every night with barely even one blanket on. My roommates would always say things like, “Is it that much colder in Tennessee that this feels warm to you?” I would just respond by saying, “Not really, it’s was just that much colder in my house.”
But as cold as it was, I still think I’d take winters in that house over summers any day of the week. Summers made it so you never felt clean because you were always sweating, even immediately after your shower. And there was no way to cool things off enough to ever make sleeping easier.
Yeah – as much as the winters sucked, the summers in a house with no A/C sucked much worse.