The dark side of December

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I used to love reading the poem "Snowbound." It sounded like great fun to be shut in the house together for several days while still taking care of all the animals and people in the homestead. This week we had a modern version of that poem. However I did not wax poetic about it, but saw enough funny things about it that I can at least write a column about our two episodes of being in the dark.

The big difference in our experience and that in Whittier's poem is that their lifestyle was not centered around one very important object -- the electric pole. Everything in our modern homes either runs on electricity or uses that power to get the appliance started.

Our furnace is fueled by bottled gas. However it won't work without electricity. Even our convenient telephones that enable us to pick up the phone and walk all around the house while still talking on the phone don't work if the power to the phone's home stand is off.

Therefore, the answering machine that is used to send messages from school are not recorded. We had to find out about school closings using a battery radio in our dark house.

Thankfully we still had two kerosene lamps left from each of our childhood homes. It's hard to believe that at one time those lamps were the only source of light. We were concerned about the battery-powered radio losing its power since we couldn't charge up the batteries.

Our new cell phones were convenient to use and didn't depend on electricity to run-until it was time to recharge them. We could go to the car and run the engine for awhile to talk, but that wasn't much fun in freezing rain.

Our cook stove is gas, which was a big help. However we did have to use a match to light the burners. I remembered that was the only way we used to light a gas stove, but had forgotten the thrill of having your hand so near the gas burner while you were holding a lighted match to the source of heat.

Our best benefit however was the wood burning stove that we have in our view room. Our main use of it recently had been to have the coziness of a wood fire on special occasions. This week it did make us have a cozy spot and a fairly warm house when we shut off unneeded rooms.

Our oven is separate from the stovetop and, you guessed it, runs on electricity. I was cooking beans for our meal when the power went off the first time. Beans require cornbread, which I was ready to fix but couldn't figure out how to do that with no oven. I remembered Lester's mother making cornbread in a skillet on top of the wood-burning cook stove, but I was not sure how she did that.

I dug out an old Dutch Oven, liberally greased it, and baked the batter over a low fire. It tasted really good after we discarded the third of it that was burned to a crisp. I almost have the charcoal cleaned out of the pan now.

The good things we experienced were several games of Rummy with three generations and a rousing game of double 12 dominoes. (That challenges my adding abilities in a dim light.) And we even taught our great-granddaughter how to play Pitch.

The minute the lights came back on, we turned on the TV and I came to the computer. Togetherness is best when it has an ending!