Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lights Out!

A week or so ago the power went out. It was Saturday night and only about 7:30 PM, so there was plenty of evening left, and I couldn’t convince my children otherwise.

In moments like these you really see your children’s imaginations come to life. Now my kids are pretty imaginative anyway, but for some reason a loss of power changes all the rules. Everything is new and scary. Bedrooms are taboo, and the living room becomes the open jungle. The family is officially on safari and struggling for their very lives. A large shadow on the wall or the settling of pipes in the floor is reason enough for any or all of the children to scream, huddle together, and bounce on and off Mom and Dad’s lap. The refrigerator is off limits and suddenly everyone needs popcorn. Bedtime is essentially out the window having been replaced with campout by candlelight. This is of course appropriate for a jungle safari. Board games are the peacemaker – that brilliant ray of light at the end of the tunnel and are, at the moment, better than sliced bread.

Normally this would be the perfect opportunity to spend that sought after quality time as a family, but after sickness and plenty of quantity time quality time isn’t exactly appealing to Mom and Dad.

With a box of tissues and a cup of lukewarm tea in my possession I wandered to my little alcove for quarantine and a date with my pillow. Unsurprisingly my passel of children followed my lead joining me and my husband on our full size bed. Earlier that day I could not have predicted that two adults and four children would be enjoying a paper, rock, scissors tournament in my bedroom.

This was only the first of many activities sparked by our sudden power outage. Yes this was becoming an event of Olympic proportions. The shadows which once sent each child running for cover were now a subject of great interest. As a result shadow puppets came to life all over our bedroom walls. These puppets gave rise to the inevitable discussion of monsters and scary stories which Dad quickly squelched. The children abandoned their scary tales easily and immediately replaced them with silly stories – very silly stories which involved varied forms of rhyme, alliteration and fantastic detail. Everyone had a turn and the laughter was infectious.

As time skipped along interest was given and taken from board games – Monopoly, Zooreka, Sorry, and Madagascar each had a fair shake. Additionally fascinating realities came to light in the dark.

The first response to the loss of power was not surprising. The children were disappointed that our evening had been altered – no Wii or movie tonight. These are of course traditional Saturday night family activities that would be missed. The kids, however, recovered nicely and with great zeal, but if I ever wondered how entrenched we are in modern technology a simple statement from my son reminded me with a smile. After excusing himself from a much anticipated game of Monopoly my nine-year-old called from an open bathroom door, “If you’re going to start without me, then email me!”

There is something about extreme darkness and an inability to change our situation that produces a need for everyone to be together. Even going to the bathroom can be too much separation, but thank God for the ever present option of email on one’s phone enabling us to keep in contact even at our most vulnerable station.

The overwhelming reality that superseded every game, activity, frustration and fear was the desire to be together and the knowledge that we should be together at all costs. I can hardly remember what we had planned for the evening before we lost power, but once the lights were out our course was determined, and our plans changed. Perhaps we had decided to travel in separate directions and pursue different activities, but thankfully high winds, a blackout, and nervous energy forced us into the same room to laugh, love and learn from each other.

In closing my nine-year-old later suggested that we pretend the lights are out every Saturday because it was so much fun. Sounds like a vote for family time to me, but maybe we could cheat just a little and have some popcorn and hot cocoa to go along with the candlelit craziness.

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