What the darkness can teach you

Kerosene Lamp

In the darkness we learn to be grateful for just a tiny bit of light

The power went out in our town last night. It really put a damper on our normally hectic, chaotic and some might say psychotic schedule. Basketball games, work, school programs and more, all came to a sudden halt.

I happened to be at the gym working up a sweat with a pair of dumbbells in my hands when the lights went out. At that point I couldn’t decide which was more annoying; having my gym routine interrupted or hearing a hundred little kids screaming “The lights are out!” over and over again as they darted in and out of the shadows beneath the emergency lights until their parents could rein them in. The screams eventually subsided and there was a relatively smooth evacuation of the building. I sat in the dark until the whole building cleared out to wait for No. 1 and No. 2 who were officiating basketball games for the aforementioned screaming banshees.

There is always that momentary haze of confusion that falls over a crowd when the realization that life as you know it ceases to exist for a time. I always get a kick out of watching peoples reaction to a power outage. Some are annoyed, some fearful, others amused and others unfazed. I generally fall in the unfazed category because I’ve lived in these conditions before. Literally!

We drove home after helping my wife attend to some of the elderly residents at her nearby workplace. The wind had been blowing all day and I’m assuming it was a major contributor to the power outage. The snow began to fall horizontally as we climbed out of the car and walked into our dark home. I must be psychologically off kilter because I love the dark. I can sit in the dark for hours. The Boss, A.K.A. The Wife, loves sunlight and bright lights which is probably a good thing because we could have easily been a Goth couple if I had my way. Not really but that is always a possibility when two brooding personalities form one dark love. I LOL at that.

We’re prepared for these occasions, maybe overly prepared. We have flashlights stashed strategically throughout the house and a dozen kerosene lamps and matches in a cupboard where we can get to them in case the flashlights don’t work. We have a gas stove, and a gas grill so cooking is not a problem; and we have a gas fireplace so we can still stay warm even when its cold outside. About the only thing unaccounted for is the fridge, which still isn’t a major concern because if we got really desperate, we can just crack open the door and start chucking the milk, eggs and meat into the snow drift to keep it all cold.

Over a meal of bacon and egg sandwiches I told my boys that this is what life was like in Samoa before power reached some of the outlying villages. I refer to my life in Samoa as the 24-hour boot camp/Scout camp because we cooked all of our food over a propane stove or an open fire. We took showers under the moonlight, gathered all of our food from crops, raised and slaughtered our own meat and caught our own fish. You learned to work hard to survive and for a kid who was born and raised in the United States, those lessons were learned the tough way and they have stayed with me throughout my life.

As kids we also learned to loathe the phrase, “When I was a kid in the islands….” because our parents, mostly dad, used it to teach us life lessons. I never understood the hardship nor did I understand the will and the determination of my father’s and grandfather’s generations until I lived it myself. Once I learned and lived to eat my food by the faint glow of a kerosene lamp, husk coconuts, plant taro and fish in a stream, everything my grandfather and my father said while growing up finally made sense.

In a day when we are so dependent on electricity to power our lives; our gadgets and microwaveable dinners; our cell phones, computers and latte machines; I’m quite content to enjoy the quiet time with my family, made possible by a power outage that made the world silent long enough for me to be grateful for living in the ‘dark’ in Samoa.

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