When The Lights Go Out

photo 1 We were all standing around the kitchen after lunch on July 4 when, without a hint of warning, our power went out. Our power rarely goes out. When we had those insane ice and snowstorms over the winter, our power stayed on. And the year before that, when Hurricane Sandy blasted through, our power stayed on. On the rare occasion that we lose power — and I think it’s been years —it’s always back on within a couple of hours. We sort of shrugged went about our business.

Our older son’s approach to losing power was to use up all of the energy in his various devices, one after the other. The younger son decided to walk the dog and then hang out at a friend’s house where they had power (and video games, of course). Tom and I took a nap. By 5 p.m., the power remained off and the electric company estimated that restoration would take another 24 hours at least. We filled a cooler with ice and food to serve as our backup refrigerator and armed with our gas stove and gas grill, we prepared to make dinner. We figured it was a lot like camping inside our house.

By this time, our older son’s Kindle, laptop and phone were dead. He wandered into the kitchen looking for something to do and was psyched to learn how to cook on the grill. He followed that up with making some of the best guacamole I’ve ever had. The younger son, meanwhile, regaled us with tunes on his brand new piano. We ate outside, where there was still a fair amount of light. The wind was relentless, sending napkins flying and providing evidence to why the power had ceased to begin with.

After dinner, as evening grew darker, we dusted off some old games and settled on Jenga by candlelight. When it became too dark to find the pieces that scattered on the rug, I suggested that we venture out to see fireworks. As the only true fireworks hound in the family, I sweetened the deal by suggesting the boys (including my husband!) could charge their devices while driving. The fireworks were okay, but sitting in a parking lot amidst huge bright lights doesn’t make for the best viewing.

By Saturday afternoon, the power was still out. Outside of needing a flashlight in our windowless powder room and the ice in the freezer melting and dripping onto the kitchen floor, the inconveniences were minimal. The high heat and humidity had broken on Thursday night and Saturday had brought even cooler weather. My husband I went to the swim club for showers and lunch (and to charge our laptops) and then camped out on the porch, our dog at our feet, hearing birdsong and not much else. The boys biked to the water ice stand and then down to a local trail.

The electric company promised that the power would be restored by 6 pm on Saturday evening, but I confess to having mixed feelings. Sure, I needed to do laundry and run the dishwasher. And yes, it does start to feel a bit disconcerting not to have power after about 24 hours. But I’ve loved seeing the boys use their time differently absent of the PS4 and their laptops and I’ve enjoyed hanging out on the porch with my husband. Not the mention the writing I’ve been able to crank out when there are no Internet or email distractions and I’m racing against the threat of the laptop’s battery dying!

Usually on Saturday nights, we watch movies at home. Not feeling optimistic about the power being restored by 6 pm, heading out for dinner and a movie seemed like a good plan. The only movie that we were all willing to see at a time that worked for us was in New Jersey. Over the bridge we went. As the trailers started, I received a text message that power had been restored. We settled in with our popcorn and candy, secure in the notion that when we arrived home, we would be greeted with lovely artificial light. After the movie, as we returned home via the Ben Franklin Bridge, we received our final gift of the power outage. Spectacular fireworks exploded from Penn’s Landing and sitting on the middle of the bridge, we had the best seats in the house to watch the grand finale.

Sure enough, when we pulled in the driveway, the power had been restored. My family knows that I sort of loved the break from electricity. In fact, my younger son is worried I might flip the circuit breaker and give us more non-electronic family time and my husband warned me not to follow these past couple days with a proclamation about the virtues of stepping away from our devices. I’ll try to play it cool. We’ll see.

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