Power Outage

Yesterday, Cute W drove a couple of hours away for a work thing. When he called to check in, he reported that a powerful storm had knocked out their power. Not too long after, the storm blew through our neighborhood and took the power and several trees with it.

It happened super-fast. There was suddenly wind and noise, and when we looked outside, we saw limbs everywhere and cars driving circles on the grassy median of our boulevard. A gigantic limb had fallen off of one of the trees in front of our house, and across the street an entire tree came down, ripping some of the asphalt driveway with its roots. In about as much time as it took to process what was happening, the brunt of the storm was over. All that was left was a chill and some spitting rain as the girls and I dragged branches out of the road on our side, and neighbors looked on helplessly at the completely blocked road across the median, with heedless cars speeding up the street as if they were late for an appointment with the small forest ahead of them.

The excitement over, we headed back inside to prepare our house for an evening without power. In my original plan, I’d still had volunteer tasks as well as hours of what I call “work-work” (to distinguish my paid work from all the other work I do) on my agenda. But clearly that wasn’t going to happen. I’d also planned to cook our go-to “dad’s not home” meal, but that was out, too.

We decided to use the sunlight around the house while we had it. I’ve been suggesting to the girls that they should read some engaging, light, romantic novels for months. Literally months. I’m a firm believer in escapist literature during These Troubled Times. You can’t avoid politics on social media, which can get draining, and lately the girls have been watching crime shows, which are pretty dang stressful, too. But recently, finally, M had started one of my picks (One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London), and she’d already gotten sucked in, so she was happy to report to the couch with the book strategically placed in the patch of remaining sunlight. J was persuaded by M’s enthusiasm, so she’s started another one of my picks (The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood). Oh, gosh-speaking of One to Watch, may I also recommend another fun fiction-about-a-reality-show novel, The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir? Deeply satisfying. All three of us have read it already. So the girls were happy to read, and J also worked on a school art project.

Meanwhile, I was bustling around checking our flashlights for batteries and gathering up candles. I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to declutter by using up some of the “homemade” candles that the girls had crafted over the years. They didn’t last terribly long, but my china cabinet is less crowded and more serene now, so it was a win-win.

Once the sunlight was gone, we headed to the grocery store to buy snacky supplies for a no-cook dinner by candlelight. Our first-stop store had lost power, too, so we schlepped through the rain to another store and were starting to feel a little sorry for ourselves. At this point, M was getting a little joke-whiny.

“Mo-o-om, I liked it better when we had electricity.”

“I know, baby,” I answered in a Soothing Mama tone.

“Actually, I liked it better when we had power, and when there was no pandemic,” she continued.

“Yes, me too,” I answered, but she wasn’t done.

And I liked it better when we didn’t have to wear masks, and our president was Barack Obama.”

At which point I started laughing so hard that I did that thing where you go into a half-crouch in a desperate attempt to keep from wetting your pants. Wait, am I the only one who does that? In any case, I probably spent about 90 seconds in the middle of the main thoroughfare of the parking lot, trying to gather my wits and pull myself back into a standing position. So, we are still laughing, anyway.

We got some veggies and cheese and Buffalo chicken nuggets. Before dinner, J and I speculated about when we’d like the power back on. J’s opinion was ASAP, but I pointed out that I’d have to go right back to work in that case. I said I’d rather enjoy our snacky late dinner by candlelight, then have the lights turn on as it was time to clear the table. And the Universe smiled on us, because that was exactly what happened.

Today J’s school was cancelled because of the power outages, but there was plenty of learning at our house. M decided that she needs to acquire more kitchen skills in preparation for Gap Year Phase 3, so she made dinner while I coached. J and I headed out for some driving practice! That’s right, J has turned 16 and has her permit now, so we headed to the empty high school parking lot. It was a bit of a lucky break, really, because in more normal times, cars would be going in and out even during the weekend. Today it was almost completely empty, although we did notice another vehicle with a father-daughter pair who clearly had the same idea we did. It was pretty adorable watching both girls creep-creep-creeping along the perimeters of the various lots, giving each other a huge berth as if each new driver was convinced that if they got within twenty feet of each other, both vehicles would spontaneously crash together like powerful magnets. At one point I waved, and J made it clear that that she did not approve of that choice.

Things have felt. . . more draining than usual lately, but today, at least I can point to some tangible accomplishments. I showed how to rock your chef’s knife while chopping vegetables and how to wait for your roux to brown. I demonstrated that nothing really awful happens if your tires accidentally strike against the curb. (Or, in my case, accidentally-on-purpose.) For me, parenting teenagers is often just keeping my mouth shut while watching anxiously and hoping for the best, so getting the opportunity to teach tangible skills to a receptive pupil is a nice change of pace. I mean, still freakin’ exhausting, but nice, too.

One Comment

  1. Claire

    I’ve been reading dystopian books and historical fiction about WWII, etc. I know it sounds depressing, but it makes me feel better because my situation is so much better than the characters in those books.

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