It was June, 55 years ago, that I recall being as sweaty as I am today. I was 18 years old. I was married to my first husband, Steve, three months pregnant with my first son, suffering from severe “morning sickness, day and night.” We had moved from Indio, California, to Kansas City, Missouri, and we were staying with friends of his at their home in the city until we found an apartment.
It was only about 90F, 32C, but the humidity was so unbearable, it was hard to breathe. The friends had no air conditioning or even fans in their house. They had a six-month-old baby in a crib in the room where we slept in a single bed. Steve was very tall and took up the entire bed. I chose to sleep in a chair.
During the night, in the sweltering heat, the couple had a huge fight, actually a screaming match, and they both left the house, leaving us alone with the baby, never returning until 10 am the next day. Of course, the baby woke up screaming when they stormed out the door.
I spent the entire night trying to quiet the baby by rocking him, changing his diaper, and giving him the last bottle of milk I found in the fridge. In no time, the bottle was empty, and there was nothing to replace it but tap water that I boiled and cooled while rocking the screaming baby in my arms. My husband Steve was passed out, so I got no help from him.
It was so humid, my clothes stuck to me. Nausea came and went in waves, and there wasn’t a cracker to be found in the cupboard or any other food for that matter. It was a miserable night, and as you can see, I remember that night like it was yesterday.
When Steve awoke at 9:30, and the couple hadn’t returned, I told him we were leaving that day as soon as they returned. We had to find an apartment immediately after less than 24 hours in their house. He wasn’t interested in leaving. He told me to see a place that day if I wanted it so badly and to take the car, which was hooked up to a U-Haul trailer. I asked him to unhook the trailer. He refused.
When the couple returned, I left, driving the old beater car hooked to a U-Haul trailer to buy a newspaper and a map. I had no idea how to back up a trailer at 18 years old, back in 1966, but somehow I figured it out and found a phone booth and began making appointments to look at apartments.
While driving downtown through a rough neighborhood, I heard sirens go off. Growing up in California, I’d never heard such sirens. I pulled into a great parking spot, got out of the car, and asked a man who was running in the street what the sirens meant. He said it was a tornado warning, and I’d better take cover immediately. It was heading toward downtown Kansas City.
The closest shelter I could find was a meat market. The store owner let me take cover in a dark corner with him, away from the glass meat counters and windows. The tornado passed over our heads, stirring up debris from all over the street but didn’t touch down where we were. I was shaking like a leaf and terrified.
Once it was safe, I thanked the butcher and headed back to the car, grateful it was intact along with the trailer containing everything we owned. Still hot and sweaty, I became all the more determined to find a place to live.
By 6:00 pm, 1800 hrs, we were in the process of moving into a clean, roomy apartment across the street from a Montgomery Wards store. A month later, I got a job there as a “saleslady” (the term used in those days) but got fired when I started to “show” at seven months. At eight months pregnant, we moved back to California, where my first son, Richard, was born on St. Partick’s Day in 1967. My second son was born two years later.
What I remember the most about that awful night and the following day was the humidity. I’d forgotten all about this story for many years but was reminded this morning in the humidity, with my clothes sticking to me and sweat pouring down the back of my neck.
That was my life then, and this is my life now. I can take the heat and the humidity. I have a wonderful life, feeling loved and fulfilled in more ways than I can count. In a way, I suppose, adversity not only makes us stronger but also makes us grateful. and more appreciative for what we have.
It’s hot. It’s humid, TIA (this is Africa), and we are grateful to be here.
May you and yours be well.
Photo from one year ago today, November 30, 2020:
|This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #252. A beam of light reflected off the camera at sunset on the river. For more photos, please click here.|