Temperature is a relative thing. I’ve heard tales about mailmen in upstate New York who walk around in shorts when it’s 50 degrees outside. For them, 50 degrees must seem positively balmy, accustomed as they are to Volkswagen-swallowing mounds of snow.
In California, that kind of behavior would make people wonder if you’re a couple sandwiches short of a picnic. We consider 50 degrees freakishly cold out here, though it depends on what part of the state you are from.
Whenever I travel, people picture sunny Baywatch beaches when they hear I’m from California. They think life here is one long kegger party, packed with bikinis and volleyballs. There’s an odd tendency to chuckle and mimic Valley girl accents.
“That’s Los Angeles,” I try to explain. “That’s about 400 miles from where I live. Like from Kentucky to Delaware.”
Yes, California is an enormous state. Not as big as Texas or Alaska, but still large enough to cover a huge range of weather patterns. Los Angeles is the land of constant sunniness, for example, whereas San Francisco lives in constant chilly fog.
I live in Sacramento, on the other hand, a place that would be Death Valley if it were’t for a couple of rivers running through it. This place’s 100+ degree days will blister the brains right out of your head during the summer months. It tops out around 114 (that’s 45.6 degrees celsius, if that’s how you roll).
Yes, it’s a dry heat, but 114 degrees is hot, no matter what kind of excuses you come up for it. No one wants to run a marathon in 114-degree heat. If global warming spikes the temperature out here much higher, the place will become downright uninhabitable.
When the Gold Rush hit, back in the days before air-conditioning, people pouring in from the northeast were in for a nasty surprise. Padded in petticoats, velvet, and other ridiculously stifling outfits, the wives of many gold miners wrote letters back home questioning why their husbands would bring them to Satan’s personal toaster oven.
I’m convinced that when no one was looking, these women locked the door, stripped down to their underwear, and spent their time fanning themselves while muttering under their breath. I picture them saying things like “Modesty, my left butt-cheek” or “Where’s that shovel so I can scrape my boots off the floor?”
We also get a lot of droughts. We’re in the middle of one now, in fact. It’s bad enough that the city has been paying people to rip out their lawns, since they require so much water, and that having a lush green front yard will get you some disapproving stares. You’re not considered a team player nowadays unless your lawn looks painted in napalm.
So when the temperature finally dipped under 70 degrees this past week, people were thrilled. It even misted a little rain for a couple days, which put everyone in a better mood. Since the kids weren’t in any danger of heat exhaustion any longer, John and I decided to round them up and take them to the park.
While we were getting ready to go, John dressed Bridget like this:
You can see the panic breaking out in her nervous eyes, peeking out from behind four layers of clothes. She’s wearing socks, mittens, a snow jacket, and has a thick blanket burrito-ing her toasty little body inside the stroller.
When I questioned the reasonableness of her attire, John insisted that he “didn’t want her to get cold.”
I figured there was a snowball’s chance of that happening, since she looked prepared for a winter in Minnesota.
Still, I didn’t want to question his parenting choices. It’s actually very sweet for him to worry about her like this. He was being a Papa Bear looking after his little one, worried about how babies get cold easily and the importance of keeping them warm. John tends to live on the cautious side, and wanted to make absolutely, positively, certain that our baby wasn’t uncomfortable.
So I decided to keep quiet as we strolled around the park, letting big sister Brontë run around the swings and tackle the monkey bars. But then Bridget started screaming and flailing her arms.
“Is she hungry?” John fretted, breaking out some of the carefully prepared snack rations she was about to smack out of his hands.
“is she tired?” he asked, while trying to hike down the back of the stroller as she flipped around in desperation, sweat pouring down her little forehead.
“She’s HOT,” I shouted, while scrambling to peel off a few layers of outerwear. I unrolled her damp socks, felt her forehead, and tried to grab the poor thing some water. She choked it down.
As the breeze hit her drenched little body, she relaxed with a deep sigh. John hoisted her into his baby carrier and she smiled as the air hit her wet baby hair and the beads of sweat sprouting all over her plump legs.
Those are the kind of shenanigans that happen when California summers dip under 70. The Sacramento heat is boiling the sanity right out of us.