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Lack of power brings families together

I just finished reading Mrs. Judy O’Bannon’s article on how electricity connects us all and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My take on it is somewhat different, however. First, I must freely admit I was born in the wrong century and was not a bit annoyed by the recent power outages. Our power was out a full eight days, with the worst of the damage being a forgotten pack of deer burger in the freezer, found only after day six. Yes, the smell is still off the charts.
With that said, I believe the recent lack of electricity connected us more by the lack of it than the advantage of having it. When the power is on, we all seem to have better things to do, whether it actually has anything to do with electricity or not. But when the power is off, it drives us outside and in search of other common threads.
I, for one, sat and spoke to neighbors that I hadn’t taken the time to visit with in years. Of course, we shared the mutual question of ‘When will the power come back on?’ but more so we talked about neighborly things and caught up on how everyone was doing. There was no hurry to get back to the house; we just sat and talked. It was relaxed and genuine; nobody had anything better to do than to live in the moment.
I visited the kitchen of an elderly friend and found she had also thought of me. The previous day she had brought fresh eggs a mile to my house, only to find we weren’t home and the power was still out. She was wanting to tell us their power had been restored and wanted to do whatever they could to help us. These folks are still reeling from the recent loss of their beloved granddaughter, but the fact that they still have the compassion to check a neighbor’s welfare is downright humbling to me.
Another neighbor and a friend offered to take what was left of our frozen food. Several grocery bags worth had already been fed to our grateful dogs, who are far from starvation in the first place, when we misjudged just how long the effort would be to get the electricity back on.
We live in the midst of a 2,800-acre forest in Laconia and, like everyone else, our home was ravaged and in need of repair. My husband and I spent the first week cleaning our own yard, cutting trees and hauling branches. When the weekend came and we were still without power, we decided to extend our hand to the area beyond us. We loaded the kids, and a dog or two, in the truck and headed for a nearby graveyard that suffered storm-related damage. We ordered everyone to grab limbs and start clearing the stones, which was done in no time at all. What struck me, however, was the concerned expressions on the kids’ faces when they squatted down to read the headstones. ‘This little girl was only 5 years old!’ my stepson shouted, as my son quickly found another who was only 1 year old when she died. It became a macabre game to read the tombstones and compare the most tragic ones. I’ve spent many a day in the cemetery with my kids, but it apparently didn’t dawn on them until this day that people were actually buried below us and that each headstone held the story of an all-too-abbreviated life. These aren’t stories you find playing a Game Boy or having your eyes glazed over watching television. The kids got back in the truck with a sense of wonder and accomplishment that they had made something better than it was when they started. And a sense that life doesn’t last forever.
We arrived home a bit later than planned and had to light candles to find our way through the house. My husband searched the garage and found two Cylume sticks for the kids. You know, those plastic glow-in-the-dark, gel-filled light-up sticks from our skating rink days. He says military days; I say skating rink days. Without the benefit of music or any prompting, my youngest son concocted a dance using those light sticks that left us in stitches. I never knew my son could dance, except a few awkward attempts at being funny, but this was dancing ‘ really dancing ‘ without the fear of ridicule. The blanket of darkness acted as a barricade to embarrassment or laughter, and the performance he did suddenly looked like art, from an artist who fears no critics. It was priceless.
A competition soon followed, with the older kids soon being challenged to do as well, and they did, albeit a tad more conscientiously. They may too have the cover of darkness, but their age prevents them from total abandonment of cool. The dare then came for us parents to give it a whirl, and I couldn’t have prayed harder for the power to come on at that point. I don’t have a creative dancing bone in my body.
It was a wonderful night. Power off. Kids dancing with lightsticks. Parents laughing and ranking the performances. Even the cat, yearning to be a part of the closeness, dodged dancing feet and found a place to stretch out in the middle of it. At that very point, I wished quietly to myself that the power wouldn’t come back on for another week. It was just one of those moments that you yearn for as parents, where everybody is happy, in the same house, at the same time.
Well, nothing can last forever. The good men of the power company made their way to our home the following afternoon and within 10 minutes life was unfortunately back to normal. TV blaring, the computer being reset, somebody calling on the telephone, the air conditioner on high to blow stagnate air out of the room. It was life back to ‘normal,’ but a small part of me wished we could have had just one more night as a family, in the dark, trying to find our way around and laugh in unison when you heard someone thump into the wall.