As we were driving through town I noticed how dark everything seemed to be. Dusk was approaching and no streetlamps had yet come on. The insides of stores were dark and traffic lights were blinking, if they were even working at all.
We found out later that a helicopter hit some power lines causing outtages throughout many cities. Over 33,000 were left without power for several hours. I don't know how the other 32,995 people handled the situation but this family of 5 took advantange of our "unplugged" status.
While lighting the candles throughout the house we talked about how electricity has not always been right at our fingertips. We read books by candlelight and played with our flashlights. The kids loved it. The dog didn't. He was restless and acting very protective.
We decided to go outside, sit on the trampoline, and just look at the stars. We cuddled on blankets and enjoyed simple conversation. Some of our neighbors were playing basketball in the dark. Some were enjoying their outdoor firepits. And some were lighting off fireworks. (That's when the dog stopped being protective and tucked his tail between his legs and bolted inside... breaking the screen in the process. So much for being protective. Fireworks are his kryptonite)
We knew the kids were too amped up with this unordinary night to settle down and hit the sack so we decided to go somewhere. (Even though it was a school night.) We didn't have a plan, we just drove. It was very eerie outside. Everything was quiet and dark.
We drove back through town. Our headlights were the only thing slicing through the darkness. We were surprised to find that the city's "Movies Under the Stars" was still going on. It's a new thing this year where they show a family friendly show outdoors. Everyone brings their lawnchairs and blankets and watches the movie on a big blow-up screen. We hadn't attended a single one all summer so we parked the car then parked our family on the grass and enjoyed watching some of Hairspray. They were running it by generator and warned us that once the gas ran out then that was it, it would be time to go home. After about 20 minutes the streetlamps started humming and glowing to life. It was a bit disappointing really. It seemed as if the magic of the night was slowly lifting, evaporating away as the light disrupted the pure darkness. We ignored it for as long as we could. The restored light woke up the responsible parents in us and we decided to get our babies home and into their beds. A few of them didn't even make it that far. They fell asleep in the car during the short 10 minute ride home.
It might sound silly but there really was something magical about this night. It seemed that the lack of instant gratification via satellite television and internet access had brought us back to the basics. A feeling of hearth, home, and family replaced the everyday distractions. A sense of community was discovered as we groaned along with strangers as the electricy brought reality along with it. And it was a good mini-lesson for me about being prepared for the unexpected.
I'm sure that helicopter pilot felt pretty bad about knocking out entire grids of electricity but I would tell him (or her) not to worry about it too much. In fact, I would thank her (or him) for providing my family with an unforgettable evening.