How I spent my 36-hour power outage vacation

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Someone is in the kitchen sticking a coffee-related concoction into the microwave. My ears perk up at the sound of the ceramic clattering against the glass plate. The sound of the door shutting, of buttons being pushed. Then, the most beautiful sound of all — the sound of the microwave microwaving. What a symphony.

Thirty-six hours without power will teach you to appreciate such things. I can’t say our Hurricane Delta outage was dire, because even though we’ve never been smart enough to buy a generator, we did put gas hookups in our home when we built it 20 years ago. That means propane powers the hot water heater and the top of our stove, which is pretty much enough to keep us alive. At least, they’re good survival tools when your son and family are here for the weekend and they still like to eat, electricity or not.

So what started pre-storm as lovely — his family and the rest of our brood sharing Friday night at the Fish House — turned into lockdown on Lott Smith Road. We knew it was bad when my husband looked at the Southwest Power app and saw that 19,000 of its 24,000 customers were without service. That’s a lot. We hunkered down to experience the whole “do you remember Katrina?” bit — flashlights, fallen trees across the driveway, and vain promises to not open the fridge unnecessarily. 

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We later learned the visiting grands started screaming at 3 a.m. when they realized their nightlight wasn’t on. Their dad tried four different outlets and broke a sweat before he realized neither the sockets nor the AC was working.

Meanwhile, way across Lincoln County, Daughter No. 1 and her husband were listening to the sound of their roof ripping off. Well, half of it, if you want to get technical. Later, her dad and brothers climbed ladders and helped them tarp it. She sent me the kind of picture that warms a mama’s heart — one of all of them working together. Moments like that remind you that having a bunch of kids is a blessing, despite the size of the bill at the Fish House.

But I haven’t mentioned the biggest challenge of our blackout period. Saturday was Daughter No. 2’s 20th birthday. Weeks ago, she asked for a mystery dinner and I, of course, agreed although I should have mentioned that electricity was a non-negotiable part of the deal. When she did ask, I sighed inside because I knew how much time it would take to write a script that jives with each person on the guest list and makes people laugh without hurting anyone’s feelings or breaking any commandments. But I nodded, “Sure, Honey” because I don’t want to be the kind of mother who only writes for people who pay for it, because my kids will surely point that out. And that’s why I was typing out the final scenes on a computer with less than 10% battery in the dark Saturday afternoon. It’s also why I printed the scripts in my car, silently thanking my husband for insisting we buy a later model vehicle (with plug-ins) than I intended when we had to shop for one in the first weeks of a pandemic.

In the end, everyone agreed that mystery dinners are more mysterious by candlelight and hibachi is OK at room temperature. My husband and I thanked God for 18 years of teenagers and admitted now that we no longer have one in our household, we will miss them. Sort of.

About 36 hours into our outage our eyes had adjusted to our new dim world. So what if Son No. 2 had gotten his power back during the night. So what if the house with the ripped-off roof even had lights and the grandparents in Simpson County never skipped an electrical beat. At our place, we were opening the door to our lukewarm fridge with wild abandon and letting the grands go in and out to the backyard as much as they liked. No AC to conserve, after all.

Then it happened.

We were settled around the dining table eating another makeshift meal when they came on, those wonders of Edison’s imagination. It felt like Christmas. And I suddenly remembered the prayer someone had offered in a church service that morning. He prayed for all the powerline workers’ safety, and he thanked God for them.

Amen to that.

You can contact Kim Henderson at kimhenderson319@gmail or follow her on Twitter at @kimhenderson319.