What We Give Up To Get

This is a true story. No names have been changed to protect the sweaty.

Some of you may remember the days when we didn’t have air conditioning. 

Summer nights in southern Illinois. Humidity at 80%-plus. No air condtioning. That’s how I grew up.

My sister Barb and I turned to our Mom for comfort: “Mommy, it’s so hot. We can’t sleep.” Her reply? “Just lie still and wait for a breeze.” 

We lay with our heads at the ends of our twin beds to be closer to the open window in our bedroom. The whir of the oversized window fan and the singing of the crickets finally lulled us to sleep.

My sister Barb, our Mom, and me. Summer in our yard. West Frankfort, Illinois.

My sister Barb, our Mom, and me. Summer in our yard. West Frankfort, Illinois.

Summer days in southern Illinois. A different schedule. Going outside at 9 in the morning. Coming in for a quick lunch about noon. Going outside until 5. Eating a quick supper. Going outside until the streetlights came on. Catching a few lightning bugs. Coming inside for the night. 

We played outside instead of inside the house. Sometimes by choice, and sometimes by Mom’s insistence. Spreading an old quilt under a large maple tree, we staked our shady spot. There we made up stories. Played with our dolls. Did simple craft projects. Talked and giggled. On the weekends, radio broadcasts of St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball games echoed through the neighborhood. 

My sister Barb, our Dad, and me. Summer in our yard. West Frankfort, Illinois.

My sister Barb, our Dad, and me. Summer in our yard. West Frankfort, Illinois.

Sometimes we walked to a neighborhood store, like Tillie’s or Thurman’s, to get Popsicles. The frozen treats cooled our mouths, if nothing else. Sometimes we walked to the library, checked out books, and walked slowly home down Poplar Street. Sometimes we went to the shady playground at the park or cooled off at the community swimming pool.

Sometimes we walked downtown to the dime stores, Newberry’s or Ben Franklin. Large ceiling fans twirled lazily above the creaky wooden floors. We could spend a long time just looking and deciding how to spend five cents. 

Dad used to say that in the summer, our car had 460 air: 4 windows down and 60 miles per hour! We didn’t drive far (and definitely not that fast). Maybe downtown in the evening, where Dad parked the car on Main Street, and then we window-shopped until after dark. Or to A&W for a root beer float or to Mike’s for a frosty or to the New Era Dairy for ice cream.

My sister Barb and me. Before we could drive.

My sister Barb and me. Before we could drive.

Making homemade ice cream was a special neighborhood treat. Neighbors would gather in our backyard. We took turns cranking the handle on the ice cream freezer until the tasty delicacy was ready to eat. In the heat and humidity, we ate it fast before it melted. Many times, we had to put our spoons aside and drink the last few sweet vanilla bites from our bowls. 

Sometimes the tornado siren sounded. Neighbors gathered with us in our basement to wait out the storm. I can still hear the voice of Art Smith, one of our local radio announcers, bringing us weather updates on WFRX 1300AM, our local radio station. The damp coolness of the concrete kept us cool, too.

Looking back, I wonder how we survived those hot, humid summers without air conditioning. And once we had air conditioning, how we spent more and more time in the house.

Looking at today, I wonder how all of us got so closed up in our houses that sometimes we don’t even know our neighbors’ names. Or want to. 

Looking into the future, I wonder if virtual connections will someday be all we have.

One change brings a lot of other changes.


Laura Warfel is a widow, writer, and follower of Jesus Christ. Her greatest joy is to bring others along with her on her faith journey. In 2015, because of the encouragement of the Launch Out Conference and Jon Acuff, she launched More Than A Widow on Facebook and Twitter. Today she blogs, tweets, and posts to help widows (and those who know them) find encouragement, hope, and resources for the journey. Her goal is to help all widows live beyond the label and live as more than a widow.
Copyright © 2017 by Laura Warfel