40: The Power of Play

40: The Power of Play

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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The Power of Play

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.

~Henri Matisse

It was a dark and stormy night. Really. The rain had stopped but the wind kicked up and was ferocious. It howled and the rattling windows sounded like someone was outside beating on the glass trying to get in. It was also New Year’s Eve. We were having our annual party and had a house full of people just starting to celebrate. We really didn’t think that much about the wind because we were inside, safe and warm, and had no plans to go out. Our family and friends were all staying overnight and we had our delicious and extravagant dinner to look forward to as well as our champagne brunch for the morning.

And then things started to happen. We heard explosions. Loud explosions. We looked outside and up into the hills near our house and saw sparks flying from electrical transformers. We saw one area after another go dark up in those hills. Then there was the loudest explosion of them all and our house went dark too.

I groped around and found every candle we had and we lit them. If you could forget that we had no power, the candles actually made everything look very lovely. Kind of soft and glowing. But we had problems. Big problems. We had fifteen people standing around and we still had to cook dinner. How would we do that? We had electric ovens and an electric cooktop. They worked great but not without electricity! We needed to improvise.

The barbecue! We would cook on the barbecue. Our New Year’s Eve menus were always extravagant and the gourmet menu this year included Beef Wellington, lobster tails, twice baked potatoes and asparagus — not really your usual barbecued items. But barbecue them we did! The men went outside, some holding flashlights and others cooking. They did a wonderful job cooking our feast. The women stayed inside, out of the wind, and got the salads and desserts ready.

Everything was delicious. I don’t think we have ever had a better meal and I don’t think we have ever laughed as much as we did while preparing it. But what would we do for the rest of the evening? We still had a few hours to go before the beginning of the new year so we all sat around the dining room table and sang. And harmonized. We started with the letter “A” and chose a song title that started with that letter. Then on to “B” and so on. We had problems with “Q” and “Z” but we made up song titles that started with those letters and the lyrics to go with them.

And then it was just a few minutes before midnight. We couldn’t gather around the television and watch the ball drop in Times Square but that wouldn’t stop us from celebrating. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… bounce! Bounce? What was that? Why it was a tennis ball hitting the hardwood floor. Instead of watching the Waterford crystal ball drop at the stroke of midnight I stood on a chair in our dining room and, with the help of someone’s watch to tell us the time, we all counted down and I dropped a tennis ball! We all screamed Happy New Year and popped the champagne open. We didn’t need electricity for that!

The next morning was beautiful and sunny but we were still without power. Now that it was daylight we could see the extent of the damage from the wind. A big tree had blown down in our front yard and there were trees down all over the neighborhood. We could see the neighbors out walking, surveying the damage… in their PJs. We decided to join them so we all went outside, also in our PJs, and walked around. We all wished each other a Happy New Year. The damage to the trees was terrible, the streets were littered with debris, but thank goodness no people were hurt and no houses were damaged.

After our morning stroll, we went back in and started making breakfast together. We cooked omelets, bacon, sticky buns and more… all on the barbecue. We boiled water for coffee… on the barbecue. And we popped the champagne open to wash everything down.

Now it was time to watch the Rose Parade, but that wasn’t happening without electricity. If we couldn’t “watch” the parade, we decided we would “be” the parade. Maybe our floats would not be as beautiful and artistic as the ones in Pasadena but ours were certainly creative. We took turns — two people at a time — making up the themes for our “floats” and parading down the hall and past the dining room door for the rest of us to see. We had the dish-drying float — our son and his wife each took a plate and a dishtowel and marched by the door, pretending to dry, as we sang marching songs. Then there was the dog-walking float. Yes, even our dogs participated! We put their leashes on and paraded back and forth past the dining room door. A pot-lid-banging float, a kazoo playing float, and a tennis ball bouncing float were only a few of our concoctions.

Our friends and family left in the afternoon. No one showered because we didn’t have any hot water. The power didn’t come back on until the next day and we were very thankful when it finally did. We still get together with the same group to celebrate New Year’s and we still talk about that special night. I don’t think we have ever laughed so much or had so much fun as we did the New Year’s Eve when we lost power.

~Barbara LoMonaco

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