Knowing that we will not be able to visit our family in St. Louis in October (as is our usual custom) and that my husband had a 30th high school reunion, we decided to go to Missouri in June. My son had never been to Missouri outside of our Fall break trips in October and Spring break trips in March. He did not understand what June would be like.
Before Missouri was a State, large swaths of it, especially in the southeast, was swampland. And as befitting an ex-swamp, the region still kept the muggy, high humidity and the giant bugs long after most of the land was drained. I had lived in that great State for three years in the early 1990s, and I have to say that summers in Missouri “suck the hind tit.” High heat with high humidity make for a muggy, sweaty, joyless existence outdoors, broken up by frigid, cranked to the max air conditioning in homes, restaurants, and malls.
Coming from Denver, where even in near 100-degree weather and a mere 30% humidity meant I could still wear jeans downtown, walking outside in Southeast Missouri for the first time in the summer felt like a hot, wet cloth was slapped across my face. And never removed. I didn’t even own shorts in Denver! (Well, Klingons didn’t have a word for “surrender” before they encountered Captain Kirk. Things change.)
I was trying to capture this feeling of being outside in a Missouri summer to my son, who kept insisting that he actually enjoyed humidity.
“It makes my skin feel incredible. My elbows feel like sandpaper now and crack easily. I crave humidity, and it will be totally fine,” he said.
Well, some lessons have to be experienced to be understood. Mark Twain said there are things you can only learn by swinging a cat by its tail that you can never learn otherwise. I shrugged, knowing that he would just have to experience it to understand.
And, by the way, I’m not the kind of mother to say, “I told you so,” to my own child. I am the kind of mother who does a little celebration dance while shouting, “In your face! Face! I was right. I was right.”
This year, Missouri had seen a rainy spring and early summer throughout Midwest. In Colorado, it seemed we had rain nearly every day — the difference is, in Denver the rain refreshes while in St. Louis and south of that area, it just doubles down on the humidity.
The day before we left, my husband’s friend sarcastically texted, “Today is 95 degrees with 90% humidity. Sam’s gonna love that heat index!” We drove from Denver to St. Louis, and then were going to southeast Missouri the next day. As we made a couple stops in Kansas, we felt the difference in humidity already: not high, but definitely higher. Because we drove through light rain between Kansas City and St. Louis, and arrived at our destination after midnight, there was no “real test,” no real experience of the heat and humidity. We slept the rest of the drizzly night.
The next morning, we decided to go to the zoo. I had recently heard, and was a bit surprised to learn that St. Louis, Missouri has one of the best zoos in the country. And, once you paid a flat per-car fee for parking, admission is free. Once inside, I understood why this zoo was so highly-regarded. The layout was wonderful — with many sculptures, and most of the paths lined with trees, big and leafy, or groups of bamboo forests. Either way, I found myself walking in the shade in the beginning. The temperature was in the low 80s, humidity only around the 50%. My son, Sam, could not have asked for a nicer day.
I still wilted after about an hour and a half, while Sam stayed fresh and upbeat. An icy smoothie, slowly sipped in the shade, helped, but I knew when I was reaching my limits. My mouth pulled into a grimace with my efforts to breath and I didn’t care if the world saw me limping and generally walking like a fat woman I am. I just wanted to go to air conditioning. When I finally, and gratefully, fell into the front seat of the car, I just had to admit that it was me, that I was out of shape and that we totally “lucked out” on the weather.
The next day it rained, the way it rained in Missouri, and indeed, most of the country — for the rest of the day. Denver has trouble sustaining a cloudy day, but in the Midwest in can rain for hours. That day, the temperature hovered in the upper 70s and we never saw much sun.
OK, I thought, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow when we’ll go down south, to Cape Girardeau …” I saw on the news that the weather prophets had prophesied temperature in the 90s and rain. Finally, there would be steam coming off the hot pavement, from the ground, and from the car’s air conditioning vents blowing in the swampy, humid, muggy air!
But no! Things did not go according to my evil plan. The temperature stayed in the mid-80s and there was no rain to be had. And, I grudgingly had to admit, it was kind of pleasant on my skin. We visited friends, Jeff went to his 30th high school reunion, and we ate lots and lots of fried food — I think everything is fried in Missouri, including water — which didn’t help me feeling out of shape. But good times were had by all, and the weather was … can I say it? … pleasant.
We drove back home from St. Louis to Denver under clear skies and moderate temperatures. Once safely back, I texted a friend to let her know that we had made it home safely. She was glad that we had such nice weather for our visit, because the very next day the weather had changed. After all that rain, “it became much more hot and humid — muggy.” “Muggy” was her word.
I don’t want to talk about it. Shut up, Sam.