A marriage that runs hot - and cold

When I was growing up in Wynnefield, Aunt Sarah - not a relative, really, but the lady next door who checked on me, as neighbors did back then - once caught me going outside in the dead of winter without a hat.

She came to her door to admonish me. It was, after all, freezing!

Aunt Sarah didn't buy my explanation: Even back then, when everyone else was cold, I wasn't. There may be a scientific reason, but my personal thermostat is permanently set on high.

Although it's not really a problem for me - except, of course in summer - it does make domestic life pretty contentious, especially now.

I guess you can see what's coming: I live with a husband who's always cold.

My husband and his rosy cheeks grew up on a small New Jersey farm, and even went to law school in Ithaca, N.Y., where it snows pretty steadily from November through April.

So I just assumed that he would be invincible about cold weather, a perfect thermostat mate for me.

That was, of course, guesswork, because back in 1960, nice Jewish girls didn't live with men to whom they weren't married.

And as it turned out, I was dead wrong about his thermostat.

On our honeymoon, while I was suffering - and not in silence - because the air-conditioning in our Bermuda hotel was broken, Vic was perfectly comfortable, and even wore a jacket and tie to dinner in the steaming dining room. I wore the same two sundresses for a week.

And then came our second summer together, when I was pregnant with our first child. The little Cape Cod house we'd bought had no air condoning. But, we were broke, and spent our wedding gift money on a clothes dryer. Laundry first. Creature comforts could wait.

No one will ever convince me that it's merely an old wives tale that pregnancy increases overheating. I was on fire.

We bought a room air conditioner for our bedroom, and I ran it day and night, even through February, when our daughter arrived.

I swore to all concerned relatives, and her nervous father, that I would keep Jill's room toasty warm through that winter. And I did.

But somehow, this tiny girl with the thatch of yellow hair seemed to prefer the cooler rooms, so I had a polar partner. I still do.

But trust me, it's not easy to be an alien from whatever is the hottest planet. "Where's your coat?" well-meaning friends will ask when I march into book group in January wearing my beloved blue-knit sweater. It's 12 years old, the age of our youngest granddaughter, and the lady at the dry cleaners knows in advance that this sweater is a one-day pickup because whither I goest in winter, it goes. I own coats, but that particular sweater suits me better.

There also is constant negotiation in the car about whether it's easier to add layers or shed them. Trained in the law, my husband often wins in that particular debate, so I'm the weird woman you may have passed on the road who has her car window wide open in February, and is dressed in a sleeveless cotton T-shirt.

And this is probably my most shameful confession: In the dark of night, when my husband is sleeping in his long johns and other gear of a woodsman in the wilds of Vermont, I kick off our down comforter as if it is the bedding equivalent of a chariot of fire.

I slip out of bed and tiptoe down the hall to the wall thermostat. And I turn it down to 62 from his 70. What's the big deal about eight degrees?

Chances are that sometime between 4 and 6 a.m., I'll hear the creak in the floorboard that tells me that Vic is on his way to get that 70 setting back.

But we have reached détente this winter. I now have a large electric fan at my side of the bed. It's aimed only at me. And when I flick that switch, I'm transported to an island paradise with cool breezes, courtesy of a $14 fan - and a vivid imagination.

Can this marriage survive?

It has for 56 years, through the seasons of content - and discontent.

But for now, in the winter of 2017 - also the winter of our lives - we're resigned.

I'll overheat. He'll freeze.

And we'll again remind ourselves that marriage is always tethered to compromise. And even in the best ones, things do tend to run hot - and cold.

Besides, I also not just permit, but encourage, my husband to put his icy feet on my warm ones.

And if that's not love, then I don't know what is.

pinegander@aol.com

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