Fire and Ice


Houston weather can change minute-by-minute. Last December, two days after Christmas, we experienced three seasons in 30 minutes on our way home from Mom’s house, a 12-mile drive. For this reason, I never pack away clothes. The only definable Four Seasons I experience are in my closet. My sweater dress from the 80s (it's okay; I removed the shoulder pads last year) hangs next to my sheer batik tank top, the closest thing to going topless without getting arrested. And if the outdoor weather isn't crazy enough, the indoor atmosphere will push a menopausal woman over the edge. My wearing layers of clothes in 40-degree-or-lower outside temperatures means indoor businesses will turn their heaters up to 95 degrees.

On a quick trip to the store in January, I stripped off my clothes in the middle of Walmart.

“We got a hot one in Ladies’ Lingerie” blasted over the loudspeaker as people in blue vests came at me with fuzzy bathrobes, my kryptonite, to drape over my nakedness.

“Stop! What are you doing? I’ll call the police!”

“Ma’am, I am the police,” said the horribly overdressed officer in blue. He must be sweltering was all I could think, as everything faded to black.

When I revived, three concerned faces peered down at me as I lay between the bras and pajamas. I recognized all three. “Oh, Auntie Em, it’s you! And Hunk, and Uncle Henry!" The lady from the jewelry department, the officer, and a guy in a white coat looked at me as if I were crazy. "Where's that blessed tornado? That breeze was glorious," I continued. They explained I was not in Kansas, and I assured them I was fine. I finished my shopping, sticking to the frozen food section.

Finally, consistently warm weather is here, this week. Call me Olaf; I love summer. The sun, the cute clothes, the establishments throughout Houston that crank down their thermostats to frostbite-level. The blast of cold air is a welcome reprieve from summers, both external and internal. You could hang meat in restaurants, schools, and churches. Although the results would be loss of appetites, lack of attendance, and a huge decrease in congregational membership; animal sacrifices are so passé. But the tundra of my church demands I carry a jacket - it’s quite the opposite of hell. We party like it’s 1999 during praise and worship for the sake of survival, and shivering is often mistaken as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

But I’m not complaining; I’ll take indoor winters that bring numbness to my extremities over heat waves any day.

At home, these are the "don't touch me" years.

As a newlywed, I pouted if didn’t get a hug and kiss before bedtime from Flash. The last decade, I’ve worked to keep him on his side of the bed. It’s too hot to hug. Those movies portraying couples falling asleep in each others' arms? Obviously, they are young and have yet to experience volcanic temperatures that come on suddenly and often stay for days. Global warming is real - every day of my life.

"What are you doing?"

"Hugging you goodnight," Flash answers.

"Okay then, goodnight." I roll over.

He rolls over to my side.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm just holding you," says the naïve man.

"Oh, okay."

Long pause.

I try to think of something else. Glaciers in Alaska. A breeze under the shade of a palm tree on a nude beach in the Bahamas. My head inside the refrigerator again.

"How long are you going to stay like this?"

He's asleep. I try to wake him, but he's in a daze from taking a sleeping aid. I try to bounce our horrible heated water bed so he'll somehow roll back to the other side. Nothing works.

I’m reminded of the I Love Lucy episode when Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel are traveling to California. En route, they spend a night at a boarding house near railroad tracks. Every time a train goes by, the beds scoot around the room. On top of that, Fred and Ethel's mattress sinks in the middle; so every time the bed jolts, Fred rolls into her space. Finally, Ethel gets out of bed, rolls Fred away from her side, and ties his pajama top to the bed frame to keep her sleeping husband in place. She gets back in bed and is able to sleep. Pretty sure that was a menopausal moment right there.

I look around. Nothing to tie Flash’s shirt to.

Finally I yell. "Flash!"


"Get on your side! Roll toward the light!"

And so it goes.

Most recently, my internal weather patterns have resembled those of Houston, swinging from hot to cold and back again over 60 times a day. When I daydream of traveling the world, I imagine each climate change as a trip to a foreign country. It's an adventure. Every day, I have a wonderful morning in the Rocky Mountains, but by the time lunch rolls around, I've had enough of life in the Sahara.

When Flash comes home from work, my attempts to avoid internal combustion and hypothermia become more difficult.

“Oh my gosh, I’m burning up! What did you put the thermostat on?”

“I haven’t touched the thermostat since I got home,” he lies.

“Whatever. It’s an inferno in here, Dante; can you turn it down a notch on your way back to the living room?”

Flash accommodates, and we put in a DVD to watch. Together time. With three feet between us to keep things cool.

Twelve minutes into the movie, I’m reaching for the double-layer, fleece blanket that my son, Cowboy, gave me for Christmas.

“What are you doing? I thought you were hot,” he meddles.

“That was before. Now I’m freezing. What did you put the thermostat on, 40 degrees?”

We watch in silence from two different climates.

Suddenly, I’m throwing off covers, fanning myself, and mumbling about impending death from dehydration. “Why did you turn on the heater? Are you trying to bake my liver, broil my brain? Is this a cruel plan to subdue me through A/C deprivation?”

“I haven’t moved in 20 minutes. Been sitting here the whole time, El Niño. The setting is the same.”

He’s right, of course. I reluctantly admit I have a kink in my thermoregulator, with no repair in the near future. Meantime, I’ll remain sleeveless, with an ice-filled YETI tumbler in one hand and my Snuggie in the other.