Tuesday, January 28, 2014

That Awkward Stage Where Things Get a Bit Heated

My mom went through a strange phase when I was about 8 years old.  She was about 50 then, and she had this really odd behavior at times.  But Rebecca and I knew exactly what to do.

In the middle of pouring split peas into the pressure cooker or feeding wet laundry through the wringer, Mom would give a sudden desperate little shriek.  Then she would sink into the nearest chair and gasp, "Fan mich!  Fan mich!"

Rebecca and I would immediately kick into action, whirling around and grabbing whatever our hands landed on--Rod and Staff Sunday school papers, the latest letter from Aunt Vina, the Spectors catalog, probably even a fly swatter--and then we'd stand there pumping vigorously with whatever object we had, fanning Mom as fast and as hard as we could until her breathing returned to normal and with a tired sigh she would tell us we could stop, and then she'd slowly get up and go back to work.

We took this job seriously, as I recall, and didn't make fun of her like we did with so many other things she did.  Or I should say "I" and not "we," generally speaking.

Suddenly, in this as with so many other things, I have turned into my mom.

In the middle of the night, the middle of church, the middle of supper, suddenly I turn into a human percolator as an unbelievably super-heated something comes boiling up inside, out to my shoulders and down my arms, up my neck and through my ears from bottom to top, forward to my face and back to my scalp.

My eyes pop and my mouth flops open in an explosive "PAAAHHHH" and I fight an impulse to tear off my garments like the people of Nineveh in terror of judgment.

My face turns bright red, sweat glistens, I grab the nearest Sunday school quarterly or newspaper and FAN FAN FAN.

This evening I had a reading and signing at Barnes and Noble.  Now this is a great honor for an author and an event at which one should conduct oneself with grace and dignity.

I was standing there reading a chapter from Tea and Trouble Brewing to the assembled audience when suddenly THERE IT WAS, that maddening heat rising like some nuclear reactor gone wild.  I wanted to yank off the chic little jacket Jenny had picked out for me and run outside into the rain.

But no.  I calmed myself.  I can wing this.  Keep reading.

I could feel my ears heating up and my face breaking out in a sweat.  I wasn't sure I could breathe.  My clothes were stifling.

In a millisecond I evaluated my audience.  A bunch of women, almost all older than me, and a few men who looked very married.  Safe people.  You gotta do what you gotta do.

"Listen," I said, "You'll have to excuse me, but I'm at that stage."  And I pulled out my bookmark, an old postcard-sized reference card from Paul's mom listing a prisoner in Gospel Echoes' Bible course program, and I rapidly fanned myself until the crisis passed.

"We understand," said the ladies, laughing.  "We've been there."

The men didn't act perturbed.  It probably made them nostalgic, like they should reach around and grab a Windows for Dummies off the rack and help me out.

When I came home, two people from the audience had posted pictures of the event on Facebook.  One of the shots had caught me in the heat of the moment, little white card flapping.

I showed it to Emily.  She laughed.  "Wow.  Really??"

She'll get it when she's 50.

And that chic little jacket I wore?  That one that is 45% wool and has a row of five closely-spaced buttons that are fastened shut with hard to manage loops?  That jacket can quietly go into the attic until this stage is over.

Quote of the Day:
"Enjoyed hearing RG columnist Dorcus Smucker read tonight at Barnes & Noble. Especially the story about fishing with her son. And especially especially when she said the word "puke.""
--Bob Welch, who until recently was also a RG columnist, on facebook.


  1. Your descriptions of things one can grab to use as fans . . . Rod & Staff Sunday school papers, Sunday School Quarterlies, and a Gospel Express inmate prayer card?? Kills me. How can I rock my baby to sleep at 3:00 am if I'm laughing out loud . . . Or shaking from keeping the laughter in?!

    1. This is too funny, cause here I am with my baby at 4:30 and the same line struck me funny!! :) :)

  2. When I was a little girl, my mom was constantly cold and telling me to put on a sweater. I never needed one. Now, I am a mother of 3, constantly cold and never understanding my now-older mother who is frequently too-warm. :-)

  3. I love it! It started my day off with laughing!

  4. I remember well the times I was desperate looking for anything I could use as a fan.

    Wish you would be able to do a reading in my area.

  5. When this stage is over? I don't know about your personal genetics, but in MY family, once we start having hot flashes, they never go away. I started having them more than ten years ago, and while they are of lesser intensity and frequency now, I still get them. Something to look forward to, eh?

  6. as I was reading your blog this morning, drinking my cup of coffee, I was suddenly seized with the same sudden flush and wanting to scream. so I just ripped my shirt off and kept reading.....I used to make fun of my older sister for the same behavior, but I have completely now eaten humble pie.

  7. Please allow me to share some wisdom. Always dress in layers. Avoid synthetic fibers since they don't breathe. A thin cotton or rayon layer worn closest to the body works well. A jacket can be easily removed during the power surges. Eliminating sugar from my diet made a difference for me. It took awhile, so give it time. I now only have occasional really hot serges. Generally they are much less frequent and more easily tolerated. Best wishes.

  8. Hilarious!A human percolator,I'm sure that describes it perfectly.I am 51 but so far I have had little sparks not full blown flashes.Thanks for the laugh!

  9. A sign in my doctor's office sums it up very well...

    "I don't have hot flashes. I just have mini vacations in the tropics!"

  10. When I was growing up my aunt (my mother's younger sister) lived with us. This was wonderful because it meant that there was always a lap to sit in, that wasn't occupied by an older sibling.

    When I was in my teens, both my mother and my aunt entered their 50s. I remember sitting at the dinner table and watching first my mother, then my aunt, take off her cardigan. Suddenly. It seemed like pretty crazy behavior to a teenager.

    I decided that I would never be like them and that I would never, ever, own cardigan sweaters.

    Now I'm on the other side of 50. And, yes, if you open the drawer of my dresser I have lots and lots of cardigans.

    Funny how as we age we discover just that our elders were very smart and not just very quirky.

    I haven't, however, started keeping a kleenex tucked into the sleeve of my cardigan. Yet.

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  12. Should I feel left out? Or maybe just virtuous for not having contributed to global warming in this manner for nearly seven decades?