Thursday, October 5, 2006

Dining By Candlelight


I don't know what you did Tuesday during the power outage that affected nearly 100,000 households in the Brazos Valley, but I wish all of you could have had as much fun as Erin did. She started off in blissful ignorance of the whole rush hour fiasco caused by the black/brown out, practicing soccer with her team, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The girls knocked it around for an hour, never noticing the bumper-to-bumper traffic crawling past on two adjacent streets. Our own drive home, made lengthy by too many cars and not enough functioning traffic lights, just gave us the chance to sing longer and louder to Erin's favorite CDs (current favorites--Paul Simon's "Graceland" and Jerry Jeff Walker's "Viva Luckenbach"). Her first order of business at home was to inventory and organize the various alternative light sources--flashlights, lanterns, and candles--just in case.

"Just in case what?" I asked.

"Just in case the power never comes back on."

"Okay," I say, but I think to myself, "Lighting for the evening is going to be the least of our worries if the power never comes back on, but oh well."

She was categorizing and ordering everything so thoroughly and carefully that I thought she might be a bit scared of the approaching evening of darkness. I suggested that we walk the dogs together in the fading light which is always a hoot, given the wildly disparate pace each dog chooses.

Impromptu Matching Quiz:

1. Luke a. bolt
2. Uma b. mosey
3. Willie c. waddle

If you guessed 1-b; 2-c; 3-a, you win the prize.

As it turns out, Erin was just putting off starting her homework, so that when she finally got to it, she could work in the dark by lantern-light--"just like the old days." Then came dinner preparation. She had definite ideas about what a dinner without power would be like, from the menu to the table setting. We set up the flashlight and arranged the candles strategically around the kitchen and began chopping and assembling ingredients. We ended up with a lovely continental type cold supper with various crackers and specialty breads, cheeses, fruit, peanut butter, and of course, chocolate as the finisher. She set the table so that the most charming candles lit our dinner and the rest were relegated around the great room to create a mood. After dinner we hung out in the living room chatting and scratching the dogs. Disappointedly, the light came back on before bedtime and stayed on. She ended the evening with the wish that we could do this again some time. Why? She'd never had a candle lit dinner before, and it was the best way to eat.

At that moment, I wondered how many people had spent the evening raging (or worrying) in the dark about canceled or interrupted plans or if anyone appreciated the chance to slow down and enjoy a few of the littler things, like walking the dogs at dusk or eating snacks that were passing as supper in the flickering candle light. It's a theme that repeats in my head fairly often: does anyone really appreciate the chance to do simple, maybe mundane things with their children, their family, their loved ones? This gift I give to you, freely, hoping that you don't need to experience the trying uncertainty our family lives with before you appreciate it.

Speaking of trying uncertainty, Tuesday morning brought that to our house in spades. Erin woke up with an acute backache, at or near "the spot." Tylenol with breakfast, a pillow for school, more Tylenol after lunch, some more before soccer. Did I mention that she has scans in two weeks and that my tension and worry would be ramping up even in the absence of evidence that things were not going well? Of course, I racked my brains trying to remember if she had been tackled by a defensive end, involved in a car wreck, or thrown off of a bucking bronco on Monday. Sadly, all I could think of was that she had had a busy weekend and a taxing soccer practice the night before. Not really enough to establish cause and effect. I also knew someone at her table at school had gotten sick over the weekend, but the classmate's symptoms (sore throat and fever) did not really match up.

Tuesday evening's "dinner in the dark" helped me de-escalate, and by Wednesday, all of Erin's complaints had stopped and I had re-grouped. I can't promise I won't worry again in the next two weeks, or that I am confident that the results will be the ones we're hoping for. But. . .for now. . .I am satisfied that everything is okay.

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