Living in a first world country, even when you are closer to poverty level than middle class, we take our way of life for granted. We may struggle to pay our bills, struggle to keep appearances, and struggle for successful careers, but at the end of the day we have all we need to make it through the next. Roofs over our heads. Clothes on our backs. Clean water to guzzle from the faucet. Electricity and natural gas to light up, warm, cook, and power the hooplah and hubbub in our homes. People rarely stop to consider the magnificence of these daily necessities, we take for granted they will be there as faithfully as Ol’ Reliable blows.
Imagine me then, coming off a very long winter break with four children who have not only lost their minds, but taken up secret lessons on how to scream like a Banshee. Set scene.
I am doing my Monday Happy Dance in between yelling for the kids to brush their teeth and get some socks on, because they ARE going back to school come hell or high water. Regardless of any tricks they may try and pull. My sanity has officially left the building. All I can think of are those two and a half precious hours alone, while the preschooler is at school peeking around the bend. The hands on the clock couldn’t move any slower as the time draws nearer.
7:10 a.m.: Shoo the oldest out the door to meet his bus and head off for another rotten day of horrible sixth grade. 7:15 a.m.: Get the two youngest to go get dressed while I clean up the breakfast mess. 7:18 a.m.: tell the second oldest child to find his backpack and always lost shoes, so he’s ready to go when it’s time. 7:20 a.m.: start to brew a cup of coffee on the Keurig. Finally! 7:20 and .04 seconds a.m.: just as I press the brew button and the machine whirls to a start, the whole world seemingly stops.
Everything goes black. The sudden silence is scary and deafening, for a moment, as my senses heighten in panic. Swallowing my fears, I try to assess the situation at hand calmly. There is a contagious domino affect of anxiety rippling through the children, nonetheless, because dawn hasn’t yet broke and the house bathed in artificial fluorescence a minute ago, is now blanketed in darkness. This cannot be happening, I think, as I stumble to the front window and check the surrounding neighborhood. My eyes zoom in and focus on the one house I am sure of which never turns the porch light off. No light. Are you fucking shitting me? The power is out throughout the neighborhood. Meaning there’s no power at school now, because it’s only a block and a half over, on the same power grid. Holy mother of Geebus!
Your phone starts buzzing violently in protest, as text after text from the parents whose kids you shuttle to school come pouring in. “Do the kids still have school?” “Is your power out?” “What is going on with the lights?” Apparently, you are supposed to have all the answers for all the questions, just because you drive a gaggle of children to school with your own every day. If that really were the case, don’t they think you would’ve won Jeopardy for a month straight then moved to the Bahamas for the rest of your life. Alone. Without any kids. I digress. I don’t have all the answers so here I remain, standing in the dark with children screeching and squealing over this travesty of power loss.
After a half hour of wading through the online outage center hidden within the power company’s website, I am ready to rip my hair out and jump off the nearest bridge to my death. Little do I know, this is really only the beginning of a nightmare of a day. The power company’s joke of a website reports their internal system is down, as well. So, while it cannot provide me with a fraction of a tidbit’s worth of useful information – why the power’s out, when it will be restored, what the main cause of the outage was… Or anything else critical for me to figure out a game plan. The only thing I received was a lousy map showing the outage area; as if all the people blowing up my phone, coupled with the ones who did not, hadn’t given me an idea as to the perimeter of the outage area. Thankfully, the school board took to Facebook and notified us parents that the elementary school indeed would be closed for the day and they received a three hour estimate for power repairs from the utility company. They should have said, “guesstimate,” because I had a better shot at winning that Mega Millions Power Ball lottery than my electricity returning.
The sun came up quickly during this fiasco of panicked chaos. The youngest was picked up for preschool, which just happens to be located on the next power grid over… lucky them. The other two settled down with their half-charged tablets, silently criticizing me for reassuring them they didn’t need to search for chargers at bedtime when they can be charged while they were at school.
Besides the fact it was the beginning of January, here in Michigan, and temperatures in the low twenties were bringing a chill into the house as the warmth escaped, it was just like any regular old day now. We became immersed in the screens of our devices – I, trying to get some writing accomplished and, them, playing mindless games and watching nonsense videos. A few hours later and the youngest was being dropped off back home again, before we ever knew it. The power should have been back on a half hour ago, I realize. What in Hell is going on here!?!
The website at least works this time. 1 p.m. is the new estimated guesstimated time given, the cause still listed as unknown. Only, my husband is awake now and someone he works the afternoon shift with called to tell him what had happened. An abandoned factory had some sort of explosion occur, which blew out some major circuit stuff and even knocked down a pole somewhere. Doesn’t seem like too hard of a fix. So we wait some more. Devices start dying on the kids. Cereal and apples are no longer holding them over and being since it’s the day before our next grocery trip, we were down to the bare essentials. AKA, non-kid pleasing foods.
Kids start up a round of the whining game. They begin tormenting one another; the initial joy over a day off of school fizzling out abruptly like a firework dud. Time for me to intercept before they turn my living room into an Elementary Fight Club Scene and something, or someone, gets broken. Santa just happened to stop by Bramma’s house this year, leaving gifts of board games and books galore. Just what they need to do to keep the peace a little longer. The cold was beginning to settle where the heat once cloaked our bodies, providing reprieve from the bitter Winter weather outdoors. Our stove, thankfully, was gas fueled, so I began searching for things to bake with the ingredients quickly warming to room temperature in my refrigerator. I put cheesy drop biscuits and a French vanilla pudding cake in the oven set at a higher temp then called for so the oven door could stay cracked, warming the kitchen and dining area, at least. Then we all sat down around the table for a hand of Uno and a round of Scrabble Junior.
Halfway into our first game, the oldest had come home. The look on his face when he saw his siblings gave me all the forewarning necessary. The “not fair” meltdown was approaching faster than the Bullet Train coming into station in Japan. He drops his backpack and runs to his room, slamming the door for good measure. How dare his siblings get a free, non-sick day off of school without him. I’m the meanest mom, ever, in his book. The lure of laughter from our game of Uno must have been too irresistible. Or the chill in his room too cold to pout properly, because he came to join us minutes later. Still scowling, of course. Biscuits done, cake cooling, we begin to play Scrabble Jr., still hoping the power would return at some point. An hour later, our bellies were full, we were all gamed out, and still…No power.
My anxiety started to build as I got lost in spiraling thoughts of what-ifs, worst case scenarios, and whatever will we do’s. I am losing my mind over a first world problem! Why does this shit always happen to me?! I tell the kids I’m laying down on the couch before I give myself a migraine. The lack of caffeine is really taking its toll on me. As I lay there, wishing I was swallowed into a black hole and put out of my misery, something totally strange and magical happened. Something I never expected or could picture happening in my wildest of dreams….
All four of my children got along like FRIENDS!!!!
That’s right. They came together in this harrowing travesty of epic first world proportion. (I don’t even know if that made any sense, but it sure as hell sounded majestically awesome!) No one picked on one another. They were kind and thoughtful. They helped each other in their dramatic play, and everyone played equal parts, compromising to let everyone win. Their laughter reverberated throughout the quiet stillness. Dusk washed away the sunlight, bathing our house in darkness again. Flashlights were found and even though the boys, the two oldest, would have loved to have felt important being the light keepers, they willingly gave the duty to their little sisters, excited to play with these new toys. Checking the outage center website, I discover it is once again down, withholding any inkling of when normalcy would return.
With a lot of blind luck and a little prayer, I managed to cook dinner in the dim light of an early winter sunset. Well, if you consider frozen French Fries, buttered parmesan noodles, instant mashed potatoes, hot dogs, canned green beans, fish sticks, and more of those biscuits a dinner. The only real meat I had was something that needed to be cooked in the crock pot for insured consumption by the kiddos, and you can’t crock pot without electricity! After dinner I let the kids frost and decorate the cake, then go back to the Zombie Prison Escape game they had made up earlier just to keep warm with the running around. I tried to use the last juice in my phone to get some answers about the power situation so I could figure out what to do, because we couldn’t stay in this freezing house overnight. The thermostat was reading 56°F for Pete’s Sake! A two hour fix at 8 a.m. had come to the twelve hour mark. The insanity of all this was eating away at the last of my nerves.
Unable to get through on the website or by phone, I texted a friend I know who works at the local hospital. They should have an idea of what’s going on, because any home care patients in this outage area which require any type of life support machinery, would have had to be brought in until the electricity was resolved. Before I could even finish typing, my phone beeped its dreaded warning that I was at 4% battery life. Fuck me! Without my phone I’m totally lost, cutoff from all civilization like a prisoner in my own home. This can’t be happening! Then my screen changed, showing an incoming call from, loll and behold, none other than the lady I was trying to text! She was just checking in to let me know management spoke to the power company and they are saying anywhere between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. because crews were hard to find on midnights and we could go to her sister’s house if we needed to. Gawd damn mother of all Hell!
And, with that, my phone chimed it’s power down sound.
I look up to see my late grandmother’s candle flickering out as it reached the nub, in its hurricane lamp candle holder. The last candle of hers I had had for it. My heart flip-flopped into my knotted stomach as anger welled up within over the last straw to this horrible situation- losing the last of those candles I cherished because only together with the holder was it the physical connection to her I cling to desperately in my grief. Before that anger could bubble to the surface… before I could even begin processing all these events rapidly firing in succession to one another, draining hope from me faster than my kids siphon my energy… The electricity came back on.
The refrigerator buzzed to life. Lights blinded us in an exact opposite manner as the dark had blinded us. The furnace gave its familiar click preceding the roar we eagerly anticipated bringing warmth bank onto our house once more. The kids cheered and shrieked in excitement as they rushed off to plug in devices needing to be charged. And I sighed heavily, thanking my lucky stars for the return of this first world luxury we all, thoughtlessly, take for granted. Take a moment today and give thanks for what you have, because someone else, somewhere around the globe, is praying for it right now.
Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now. Check out all the other participating bloggers and see what words they got and how they used them.
My Words Were: eyes, reverberate, broken, ready, whatever.
They were submitted by: Baking In A Tornado
Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:
Baking In A Tornado
By: Kristina Hammer, aka, The Angrivated Mom