When I was younger, one of my favorite computer games to play in school was Oregon Trail. You and your husband and wagon full of kids would set out for the wild, wild west where there was a promised land of gold and prosperity. Along the way, you would try to kill animals and find food and maintain health within the wagon so that everyone survived. This rarely happened. Usually, by the time you arrived in Illinois, you were burying little Johnny who had died of dysentery. Sadly, just a few miles later, it was time to dig a grave for Mary, who had just died of typhoid fever. Very rarely would you actually make it to the land of gold bling without a tragedy – usually, you wouldn’t make it at all!
Two weekends ago, I woke in the middle of the night feeling a sense of eerie peace and calm. I looked over at the clock and saw nothing and realized the power was out… I had no idea what time it was, but fell back asleep assuming the wind or weather was somehow responsible and that everything would be up and running when I woke up again in the daylight. Ummm… not so much. I heard Sam talking and felt an instant rush of cold when I got out from under the covers. Habitually, I tried to turn on the bathroom lights and laughed as they of course didn’t turn on. I got Sam out of his crib and wrapped him in a blanket as we ventured downstairs for breakfast. I went to go make coffee… oops. Guess that wasn’t happening either. I went online (thank you 3G!) and through the infinite power of Facebook (Facebook changes lives… this is truth), found out that thousands were without power. My parents’ house was out, but my sister’s house in Concord thankfully still had power. Sam and I drove over (we searched for coffee first… priorities people), but gave up and ended up in her warm house shortly after 7:00AM. We had a nice homemade breakfast and Sam had an awesome time playing with his cousins. Upon learning my power was back on, we drove back home only to find that the power was not operating fully, which resulted in the unfortunate loss of our furnace. Packing up again, we headed to Grandma’s where we remained for most of the day. We checked the house late afternoon to find full power and a fully operating furnace – yes! After dinner with my mom and grandparents, Sam and I said goodbye and I looked forward to a normal night. After putting Sam to bed, I couldn’t help but notice that once again, the house seemed cold and the lights dim. I looked at the thermostat which was plunging degree by degree into the low 60s. A neighbor offered to send someone to take a look, but I bit the bullet and took a leap of faith that it just needed the overnight hours to fix itself. Thankfully, I was right… even more thankfully, Sam was completely calm and cooperative during the many car trips, the interruptions of sleep and being transitioned to a Pack N’ Play Sunday night.
So when the morning of the following Saturday began in much the same way, it wasn’t as disruptive. We made our way through it and thankfully, this outage didn’t have the same accompaniments of a moody furnace or romantic lighting throughout the condo. We had plans for the day, but still spent the morning with my parents who had also lost their power, but had a fire burning and had made breakfast camp-style on the grill.
When I laid down that Saturday night, in a warm condo, reading a book on my iPad, I wondered how in the world those pioneers survived. Even without power, I still have a car to take me to a place with power. Even without power, I was able to use the internet because of the connection of my phone to determine what was going on. There are things about the progression of the world I’m not crazy about – the way we’re obsessed with knowing everything instantly. The replacement of textbooks. The loss of anticipation in waiting for something because you ordered it on Amazon Prime and it’s at your doorstep in a day or two (what do you mean it’s going to take THREE days??) But I’m going to be honest and say I like lights and I like heat and I like being able to make coffee when I want to have coffee. I’ve never been great at hand-washing dishes (imagine water splashing everywhere) because I’m a fan of the dishwasher. And if someone told me that my iPod was gone forever and there was no replacement for it, I would probably cry. Yes, I’m just like the 14 people reading this blog post – I like my computer too. But losing some of those comforts, even for a very brief period of time, led me to remember how lucky I am to have them and to not lose sight of the times when people didn’t (but did it matter because what you don’t know you just don’t know??) – or worse, those who don’t today because economical conditions don’t allow it. I put on an extra sweatshirt and felt annoyed about 60 degree temps in my condo… I think now of how many people have spent this brutal winter on the streets under cover of nothing more than a cardboard box. Perception really is reality.
It’s official… I would have likely never survived the Oregon Trail.