Sue Bowman Rural Ramblings

As I write this column during late July, the weather forecaster is telling us that this is not only likely going to be the hottest July on record, but it could be the hottest month on record here since the late 1800s. I wouldn’t give the meteorologists an argument on those points — it sure has felt way too hot for way too long in my book.

Whoever said, “It isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity,” certainly knew what they were talking about. Many days, July’s “real feel” temperatures were at or above 100 degrees, courtesy of the high humidity. I’m not a fan of having sweat start to flow the minute you walk out the door and before you’ve even tackled any of the chores that need to get done. One morning I stepped out onto the porch and realized it had been too long since I’d given it a good sweeping. I only got halfway through this little task when the sweat of my brow started coursing down into my eyes, creating an unpleasant burning sensation. I decided the other half could wait.

Barn work wasn’t much fun either as the weather warmed up. Old Pennsylvania German bank barns are great in the winter, because most of them face south and allow the sunlight in, while the back of the barn fends off those nasty north winds. We had only a few cattle remaining in the barn when July rolled around, but we feared for their health in the stuffy main barn.

The lower level was damp and had little air flow. That’s when it hit me about opening up the trapdoors in the upstairs barn floor. If the winter wind can blow straw or silage right up into my face, instead of into the feed cart below, on a cold, gusty night, why not open those trapdoors to draw air up from the first floor in summer? We also opened the big barn doors on either end of the upper level and soon it felt like we had air conditioning on the ground floor. That might be an exaggeration, but the cattle and I were both much happier that way until they were able to move to the pasture.

It’s already been somewhat of a depressing summer because of COVID-19 restrictions. Many of the things we normally look forward to like family cookouts, Sunday School picnics, dining on decks or day trips have either been canceled or have become ill-advised. That, coupled with the heat, made me particularly susceptible to the various “Christmas in July” gimmicks that cropped up during this broiling month.

Actually, some of these Christmas-themed happenings came into existence prior to the pandemic. They were originally designed to provide us some psychological relief from the hot weather by inspiring us with thoughts of a white Christmas to cool us off. Snow sure seems like a better idea in the middle of summer than in wintertime, when it changes our plans. And, shoveling snow isn’t that much fun either when you get so cold you can’t feel your nose and toes.

I admit to being a fan of the Hallmark movies on cable television, where their network celebrated Christmas in July. It was a nice change of pace to switch channels to something frosty in the midst of July’s major heat wave. I’m a sucker for those romantic movies where the lady and her prince go for moonlit sleigh rides, find the perfect Christmas tree together and then dance the night away at the annual Christmas ball in his castle, where he surprises her by “popping the question” and the whole kingdom rejoices. Of course, it isn’t reality, but a little chilly holiday fiction never hurt on a sultry night when there’s nothing else on television.

One day, I turned on the radio and the song “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” was playing. It sounded so fresh and cheerful, I couldn’t help but sing along. My spirits continued to soar as I heard other Christmas songs like “Winter Wonderland” and “Sleigh Ride” being aired. The power of suggestion is a mighty thing, and I found myself “chilling” to these familiar tunes that sometimes start to sound “ho-hum” by the time Christmas finally rolls around.

I also found myself feeling some old-fashioned Christmas spirit as my thoughts were distracted from the heat at hand. Why, I wondered, was I finding it easier to feel Christmas joy in the middle of summer than during some Decembers?

I’m almost ashamed to say I realized it was because Christmas in July reminds me of Christmas when I was a child. There were no obligations to worry about like buying gifts or what to serve for Christmas dinner or putting up all those decorations (some of which still haven’t made it back to my attic from last Christmas). I was free to listen to my Christmas records and play in the snow without a care in the world.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, and it isn’t just about keeping cool during a hot summer. I hope all of you had happy holidays during Christmas in July, too.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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