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GINGER: Power outage builds birthday memories

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By Ginger Truitt

Last night our family spent a few, quality hours together sitting in the dark. I’m not sure what caused our power outage, but it appeared to be a multi-county problem.

We were just finishing up our son’s fourth birthday party when the lights flickered, and then it was dark.

I don’t worry too much during outages because our local rural electric membership cooperative always does a great job of having power restored as quickly as possible.

This time, I was actually kind of excited.

We recently installed a natural gas fireplace, and it was nice not having to concern myself with kerosene heaters. Now that I think about it, there is almost always excitement involved.

Last year, our electricity was knocked out when an unfortunate fellow ran into the telephone pole across the road. I dialed 911, and then ran outside to help. The poor guy was walking in circles, holding his head, so I brought him inside.

We laid him down on the floor, and the kids scurried about gathering towels and blankets. There was glass protruding from a large gash in his head and what seemed like an immense amount of blood.

In retrospect, the bleeding probably wasn’t as severe as we thought at the time. But when you have five kids observing an incoherent stranger, bleeding in the living room floor, it doesn’t take much to seem like a lot.

The EMTs assured us he would be fine.

Because the pole was split in half, we expected to be without electricity for the night. But soon, the REMC showed up and worked steadily in spite of the frigid temperature. I was surprised at how quickly a new pole went up, and power was restored.

We are fortunate to live in a place with readily available electricity.

Several years ago, my friend from Haiti spent three months with us while waiting for her baby to be born. Due to political upheaval and rioting, hospitals were being shut down, and the Haitian airport had closed.

Her husband was able to get her on the last seat on the last commercial flight out of the country.

She came to us during the coldest time of the year. Every day we waited anxiously to find out if her husband and children would be able to come to the U.S. in time for the baby’s birth.

One day she sat for hours, staring out our large picture window.

“I can’t believe it is snowing,” she said.

She repeated the sentiment often, as this was her first time to see snow.

When our power went out, she didn’t even notice. She just continued watching the storm.

I lit the kerosene heaters, moving one fairly close to our friend since she wasn’t used to cold temperatures, and that particular window is rather drafty.

The kids set about doing all the fun stuff that kids do when the power is out.

Building forts from blankets, reading books, playing games, and just generally using their imagination.

Our friend turned from the window just in time to see our son skewer a hot dog and start roasting it over a candle.

This was something else new!

She still had not realized the electricity was out, because it goes out frequently in Haiti.

They often don’t have power for days at a time, but they don’t let it affect their lives much.

The kids were disappointed, but she marveled when power was restored within about an hour.

I pointed out that during this time of year, if it isn’t restored quickly, we run the risk of people freezing to death – an entirely new concept to someone from the Caribbean.

So, last night we played games, ate cold pizza and birthday cake and warmed ourselves by the gas fireplace.

Our daughter was disappointed that she couldn’t watch the Indiana University game, but she enjoyed playing the electronic version of 20 Questions with us. Oh, and here’s a weird tidbit: that 20 Questions game accurately guessed Rosie the Riveter, Luke Duke, Moses, and the Gingerbread Man, but was stumped on Jesus Christ.

I’m not sure how long the power was out because I was asleep when it came back on.

What I do know is that a 4-year-old boy is going to have fun memories of how awesome his glow-in-the-dark birthday balloons looked when the house was utterly dark.

And we’ll remember snuggling on the couch and answering silly questions about the Gingerbread Man and Jesus.

And we’ll always be thankful to live in a place where power outages are not the norm, and there are always hard-working people making every effort to have it quickly restored.

Ginger is an author, speaker, and mother of five. Her award winning column appears weekly across Indiana and Kentucky. Contact her at ginger@gingertruitt.com or visit www.gingertruitt.com.