Saturday, August 29, 2009

Unplugged in the 8-3-1

Thursday was Back To School Night. I visited the kids' classes while they played on the playground. As I gathered my chickies (like a good Mother Hen does) I noticed a lot of noise in the air. Small planes and helicopters dotted the sky. A fire had broken out in some distant hills and water was being transported to douse the blaze.

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.


annette said...

Oh my goodness!! I felt the exact same way. It was so fun being outside with my neighbors, chatting while the kids played long after their bedtimes. I took pictures of the sky too, and my kids playing on the tramp, with the smokey red sky behind them. Most of my family went inside before I did and were using morse code with their flashlight to beckon me to come inside. And when I did, we sat and talked to the light of our lantern. The second we heard beeping, letting us know the power was on, we heard kids cheering down the street. We weren't cheering. We were kind of sad too, because it was so peaceful and quiet and fun hanging out together in the dark. I wish I would have thought to blog about it. Great post Tiff! And I love Reef striking a pose in that first picture :D

Stefani said...

we spent time on the tramp too (all the kids out there together enjoying it) Afton even brought her rechargeable speakers and we had music to jump by. I was kinda wishing we'd have a power outage more often. We lit all the candles in the house and tried to figure out the best configuration to make the most light. We even read our scriptures by candle light. It was reminded me of Joseph Smith's time. Right after that the lights came back on. I can't say I was disappointed. Even though it was fun for a little bit, I was ever so glad to have my lights back. I'm glad you took pictures and shared. I didn't even think to get my camera out.

Eric and Lydia said...

We lost power for 4 days about a year ago, and it was really amazing! The kid's didn't have school, and the weather was perfect, so they played outside, we cooked on the grill, it was like camping, but you get to sleep in your own bed! I loved it! But I was glad to get the water heater going again so we could shower!