“What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance” ~ Jane Austen
When you reside in an old home you can’t help but consider the lives that filled the rooms before you. Thomas and I were doing just that when temperatures spiked to triple digits and stalled. Heat accompanied by aggressive insects melts all motivation and evaporates the energy you wake with. Our air conditioners were overwhelmed and offered little relief. Still, we are blessed with modern conveniences that make everyday, mandatory chores almost effortless — just press a button. The original residents of the Fairfield House had no air conditioning to escape the sweltering heat. When indoors, the green head flies and mosquitoes were still present because there were no screens on windows. The day’s work was hard labor and could not be delayed until things cooled down. These people were self-sufficient. Things had to get done and chances were the next day was not going to be any kinder. People didn’t wear shorts and sleeveless shirts. Women wore long, full dresses with long sleeves and high necks. Petticoats under it all and aprons on top. Bonnets protected their heads from the sun. Men wore denim overalls with a long sleeved shirt underneath. A straw hat topped their heads. Both wore leather boots and wool socks.
By contrast, we were enjoying the cooling breeze and loud hum of a window air conditioner unit on Friday night as we drifted off to sleep (central air is still on our to do list). We were not asleep long when my home shook me awake. Literally. Hurricane force winds were beating against the windows at 80 miles per hour while repeated lightening bolts lit up our room. Thunder boomed and the doors vibrated in their frames as the worst storm we’ve experienced since moving here raged on. Fifteen minutes in we heard a loud bang that jolted me out of bed and everything inside the Fairfield House went black and silent–we lost our power. No power means not only no air conditioning, but no water and consequently no bathroom privileges.
Eventually the storm rolled out to sea but left a swath of downed trees and power lines in it’s wake and 206,000 regional residents without electricity. Stores and gas stations were closed, while my freezer and refrigerator were transformed into nothing more than storage chests for spoiled food as we were unwillingly transported back to the type of life the original homeowners led. Temperatures remained in the triple digits. I can now understand why no one is smiling in those vintage photographs. They were all miserable! Power was finally restored for us on Monday night, however many are still without power and effectively living in the 1800s.
Modern life is so different and in so many ways superior to when our home was built and certainly compared to the time of our nation’s founding. As this is July 4th holiday, it gives me pause to think how far our great nation has come in such a relatively short period of time; from wilderness to wonder. Today is an opportunity to appreciate our virtues as a nation, celebrate our past and plan for our future. God bless the United States of America.
* A “derecho” is a widespread and long-lived, straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms.