I remember a few summers back having to define the word "sultry" to my daughter, then 5-years-old.
It was late July and right around the time of our town's annual festival. The kids perched themselves along the parade route with a homemade lemonade stand. They yelled at passersby continuously until they sold enough lemonade to buy tickets at the carnival while the ladies sat on the front porch fanning themselves and drinking vodka cocktails so as to not exert themselves too much in the heat. It was the kind of heat that makes your thighs stick together and leaves a constant bead of perspiration down the small of your back.
It's not exactly hot around these parts yet...not hot enough to carry around a fan in your purse or resort to wearing skirts, but it's getting there. And boy, is it humid. Summer is slowly revving up, as it often does in our state, little by little. And just like every year, after The Fourth of July, I expect it to be hot.
Not TEXAS hot, WASHINGTON hot, which is hot enough for me.
So anyway, as we transition into this warm time of year, I'm never more happy that the previous owners were smart enough to install a pretty solid ceiling fan in all the upstairs bedrooms, however tacky they may be the other 9 months out of the year. Although it's dated and ugly, the calm whir of that fan is all that makes it bearable to sleep in my own bed when it's so muggy outside that even the frogs are sweating.
Last night was the first night I've used it this year.
I couldn't sleep (might have something to do with that nap I took at 5pm - I know, I am certifiable, but my husband was on shift, my kids were zoning out and I seized an opportunity - don't judge), so I read late into the night. I'd been trying to finish the same book for 2 weeks and with only 40 pages to go, I trudged on.
I shouldn't say trudged, like it was a chore to read it, because it wasn't. In fact, I can't remember enjoying a book more in recent years. I just hadn't had a lot of time to actually sit down and read, so I was grateful for these wee hours, when the house was quiet (save the fan), the kids were dreaming (one right next to me), and the worries of the day were over.
But someone should have warned me. I mean really warned me - or maybe the book should have come with an endless supply of Kleenex coupons because before I knew it, hot tears streamed down my face, one followed by another, as I read through the end of the story...in which the main character finds out way too late that she has inflammatory breast cancer.
It was like Beaches, Steel Magnolias and Terms of Endearment all rolled into one. The story of women. Moms, daughters, best friends. I've always been a cryer. I've always been sentimental. But this was the first time I'd read a book that really hit home.
Almost exactly one year after my own mom's breast cancer surgery, reading a story in which another woman (yes, fictional I know, but still...this could happen to anyone) looses the battle is rough. It's the "what if" and the "could have been" and maybe even the "it could come back" that made me feel like a puddle of mush in the middle of the night, glancing at the clock and knowing that although she was fast asleep, I'd never wanted to call my mom more just to hear her voice.
I finished the last word on the last page and put the book back on my nightstand. I took a deep breath and reached for another tissue, wiping away the river that was forming on my cheeks.
Good grief, I thought to myself. It's just a book!
But sometimes it's more than just a book, sometimes it's a story that no matter where or when or who...it's about all of us.
I looked over at my daughter, sleeping beside me. She was laying face up on her father's pillow, hands at the sides of her face and my zebra-print sleep mask covering her eyes because the light from my lamp was "too bright mom."
And I laughed, giddy over the comedy that scene created.
And then I went to sleep, grateful for all of the women in my life. The moms, the grandmas, the aunts, the cousins, the friends and the daughters.
Because that, is what a good story can do.