Breezing through hot summer nights

The temperature outdoors is climbing above 90, but I'm cool and comfortable indoors, thanks to air conditioning. As someone who grew up where summers were steamy, I'd happily nominate refrigerated air as one of the great inventions of all time.

Nowadays, air conditioning is as ubiquitous as ants at a picnic – but it wasn't always so. Back in 1960, only 12 percent of us lived in air-conditioned comfort.

Although I wouldn't want to return to those days, I have fond childhood memories of August nights when the electric fan in my bedroom whooshed hot air from one corner of the room to another.

I would shove my bed close to the open window in hopes of catching any stray breeze. I stared up at the stars, wondering about the universe. I turned on my radio and marveled at voices and music that came to me from far-away places – Buffalo, Nashville, New York City, Texas.

One of the best things about not having air conditioning was that families gathered on their front porches after dark to enjoy the night air. Neighbors dropped by to catch up on what was happening. We children grew sleepy listening to family stories.

But as home air conditioning became the norm, those impromptu neighborhood conclaves ceased.

These days we chat with our neighbors when we walk the dog, or at get-to-know-everyone block parties. Then we return to our air-conditioned homes – cool but solitary.

Despite my fondness for air conditioning, I miss those muggy evenings where generations socialized together.

I wonder what would happen if my husband and I sat out on our front stoop one evening? Maybe we'll give it a try and see.

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