What does a Texas girl do in the middle of the summer when the temperature soars to 100 degrees or more? Makes a fake winter, of course. All it takes is an A/C window unit and a good book that presents a setting far different than the sweltering sidewalk outside.
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder was perfect for curling up underneath the air conditioner in the front room (my sisters and I would actually fight over that spot, the only cool spot in the house). In the book, the teenage Laura and her family fight to stay warm during an excruciatingly bitter winter in the early 1880s. Quite the opposite set up of me trying to stay cool in Texas summer.
Two images stay with me from that book. First, it was so cold, the nailheads in the attic always had frost on them in the morning. I can see little white circles in a line on the slanted roof! What kind of winter causes that? Brrrrr. The other is a scene where Ma decides that to have fuel for the fire, they would twist hay into sticks. And so they did…twist after twist after twist. My poor Texas mind could not wrap around such a scarcity of fuel, nevermind the cold that would require it.
During my first graduate degree, I took a Children’s Literature class. Pretty much the only thing I remember the instructor specifically say to me was about this book. “You should read it as an adult,” she said. Having lived on the North Slope of Alaska, now I do know what a long winter is like and yes, that book is a different read. But it will always take me back to summers in Texas.