30: Christmas Without Electricity

30: Christmas Without Electricity

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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Christmas Without Electricity

There is a force more powerful than steam and electricity: the will.

~Fernán Caballero

I was at work the day before my long awaited Christmas vacation, ready to enjoy some quality time with my family. We received a large snowfall the previous night, which was very deep, so I had a fun eight-mile ride to work on an ATV (4-wheeler).

Around lunch my wife called and said, “Honey, we have a problem. The power went off an hour ago, and we are getting cold.” She was alone watching our two children. They were four and six years old. There was more snow in the forecast. I called the utility company to inquire when the electricity would be restored. The receptionist informed me that the electricity could potentially be out for several days, maybe a week.

During the long ride home, I wondered what I could do to get my family through a week without electricity. Then it hit me. “Call Dad. He will know what to do. Or, even better, he will ask us to stay with him and Mom.” I knew it was a great idea. Arriving home, I called Dad. He lives five miles away, but did not have electricity either. Dad was not sure what they would do. Discouraged, my immediate reaction was, “Well great! Now what? We’re on our own.”

I located a flashlight, and went to the basement. I was looking for anything to help us during this crisis. I was burrowing through the junk that had collected down there when I remembered some advice from my grandfather: “Boy, don’t worry about what you don’t have. Do the best you can with what you got.”

I keep things around the house, not like a hoarder, but rather a “Collector of Everything,” like my grandfather. I located a kerosene heater along with thirty gallons of fuel I had stored for an emergency years ago. I looked at my cordless tools and pondered, “How can these help?” I always have batteries charged and ready for use in those hand tools. I discovered a plastic desk fan. I kept digging and uncovered a box of candles and a box of hurricane lamps that I picked up at a yard sale. The small, rusty wheels in my head were spinning. I was not in panic mode any longer. I was in the “I can do this” mode, and I started to feel pretty good about things. The heater worked and so did the lamps. This wasn’t going to be so bad!

I made trips upstairs, like an Olympic sprinter. I carried parts to repair our life. The items were piled on the living room floor. I dug through the mound as a child would on Christmas morning. The kerosene heater started generating a bit of warmth. I placed a lamp in every room. I tore the fan apart and inserted the plastic blade into the cordless drill. I positioned the drill in front of the heater, pointed it down the hallway, and tied the trigger in the on position. Warm air began migrating down the hall into every bedroom. We had a 500-gallon propane tank for the water heater and stove. Neither hot water nor being able to cook was a concern. At least we could use the stovetop. We ate supper, watched the snowfall, and went to bed. Things were slowly getting back to normal.

I called Dad the next morning, Christmas Eve, to see how he and Mom were doing. He still did not know what they would do. He said, “We were cold last night.” I asked them to come to our house. We were not at full comfort level, but were able to help. They arrived in his Jeep. It was loaded with food, clothes, and presents. He stopped to get my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. Dad said, “The drive was slow, but it was better than freezing at home.” We sat around reminiscing while the kids played games. We had a candlelit supper of hot soup. Everyone enjoyed a warm shower, hugs, and went to bed. I went to sleep thinking, “It was a pleasant day.”

We awoke Christmas morning to wonderful aromas filling the house; my wife was cooking bacon, eggs, sausage, gravy, country ham, fried potatoes, and pancakes. Biscuits were atop the kerosene heater. The smells reminded me of Christmas morning at Grandma’s house. The scents of hickory smoked bacon, sage sausage, and country ham were creeping through the house, like a slow, London fog. After breakfast, we sat and talked about the “good ole days.” We did not realize we were reliving them. Later that evening, the snow started to melt.

Around six, as we were opening gifts, the electricity came alive. We left everything alone for an hour, making sure the electricity would stay on. We put the house back to normal and finished opening presents. After several hours of holiday enjoyment, everyone loaded up and went home.

As I look back on that Christmas, I realize what a great time it was.

Since then, many changes have occurred. My dad passed away. The children are grown, building their own lives. We have not had much snow during the winter months. Around Christmas season now, I sometimes long for another Christmas without electricity.

~Christopher E. Cantrell

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