I took a nostalgia trip in the afternoon as I wrote some 1200 words about the first house I remember, which is the house I was born in and lived in until I was 10. The 1940s was a world only we rural born and bred people remember: horses pulling plows, the coming of electricity and telephone and tractor. I remember that little house with great vividness so I had a lot to say and will probably add yet more details when I go over it again. My visual memories were not mixed with television images. Only a few movies, only a few books dilute the pictures of my every day world.
At about 5:30 as I was almost done cooking dinner the electricity went off in this apartment complex -- indeed, I soon found out, in a 2 or 3 block area. "It's being worked on" I was told and expected the radio to remind me with music when that happened as I ate dinner. I was mindful not to open the refrigerator, I realized I couldn't reheat my coffee in the microwave. Outages rarely last an hour, especially when it's a sunny day with a gusty but not vicious wind to down a tree on the lines. For a reason I have not yet heard, that outage lasted until 12:30 -- about 7 hours. During the whole time I trusted implicitly that "They" would fix it. My world is cared for by people I don't know whose job it is to keep the infrastructure working. I have never experienced something like the awful tornadoes of this past week nor the conditions of war -- major catastrophies that interrupt life in serious ways.
At first it didn't interrupt me much. I had dinner, I talked with a few of my neighbors, I sat down and read in the still strong evening light. But it got dusky and then dark. I could see at a diagonal across the road the little strip mall had electricity. As it became too dark to read comfortably, I lit a couple of candles and did some cutting of quilting pieces. That little job done, it was still only 8:00 and I did not want to go to sleep, in fact, I knew I wouldn't go to sleep that early. Then I remembered purchasing a large print Ian McEwan novel at a book sale -- not because I need the large print but because I wanted to read it. In the dimness of candlelight the large print was easy on my aging eyes so I read until I was sleepy.
I left my beside lamp "on" so it would wake me when the electricity came on -- and it did. I had had plenty of time to think about my parents living a third of their lives without electricity, using kerosene lamps at night, briefly in the summer, long hours in the winter. Having, those first ten years, no refrigerator, no electric stove, no electric light out in the barn or on tall flood lights as they would later that illuminated the drives between house and barn. So many other things that simply were not invented back then - which was not so very, very long ago -- after all it was in my lifetime. While I admit I've hit the big 7-0, I often look at the progress of history from early civilizations to today - all without electricity until just a few years before I was born. Even old eyes adjust somewhat to candle light, it's harder to adjust our habits.
Vidya Sundar paints - SILENT SONGS IX
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