February 19, 2010

The Things We Take for Granted

I’m ashamed to admit that when the power was off all night, the first thing I thought of upon waking was a hot cup of coffee.

I should have been concerned about the water pipes freezing, like my husband who had abandoned our warm ship and stepped out onto the ice-floe of our bedroom floor. Or how about our children? Did they survive the night? Or the older people in town who’s internal regulators don’t keep them as warm as the rest of us.

No, I shrugged deeper under the blankets and braved only one hand through a dark port-hole. Jack-Frost nibbled at my fingers and I retreated under the covers again. I longed for a warm mug to hold.

At last the craving for caffeine propelled me from my bed to my closet where I pulled on two thick sweaters, fuzzy socks and slippers, and braved a look at the white world below my window. Snow chips blew by in a hurry to Manitoba, and the odd one pinged the window as if to chastise me for thinking bad thoughts about Mr. North Wind. But I was really thinking that two hands around a hot cup of coffee would help me accept the scene below. It was like walking into my teen daughter’s bedroom. Great lumpy mounds of snow had been tossed haphazardly, landing where they may. A mammoth one stretched across the street, another draped over a car, and another, waiting for someone to trip on, lay in front of the church door.

Then, rising out of the chaos, lace. It had been flicked on a tree where it wove in and out of the branches like cut work. Later, with a blue sky behind , the sun would shine through the virgin veil and the blizzard would be forgiven once again.

But not now. I wrapped my sweater tighter, slid my hand down the cool banister and headed for the coffee machine. There must be some way, I mused, standing in the middle of the kitchen, to heat a cup of coffee.

Milk and cereal, which I usually have for breakfast, never tasted so cold and cruel. We all sat down together – my husband, our children and myself. And they stayed. I didn’t have to call them to the table. And I didn’t have to invite them to stick around. We lit an emergency candle and a few tapers and huddled together, taking turns warming our hands over them as the temperature plunged to near freezing in our house. The only time we left the table was to pull on our coats and gloves.

And the stories began. We told about our Grandparents who lived by candlelight and lanterns every evening. They sang, they crocheted, they told stories, they talked. And we talked. We prayed for the power boys who braved the blizzard to restore our warmth and lights.

There were times of silence. Real silence. No TV, no radio, no beeping gadgets with our children’s noses buried in them. Even the lights were hushed and the fridge no longer whined. Yet our children stayed. I snuggled into the warmth of our love and togetherness.

My daughter decided a fondue would work without the power. We melted a chocolate bar and dipped cantaloupe in it, and we connected. We listened to each other, we laughed, and I almost forgot about my longing for coffee.

And then the kids started to burn toothpicks and chocolate bar wrappers in the candles. And then it was over. They drifted off, staring at the Wii, much like I had stared at the coffee machine. The lights hummed and the kids whooped and ran for their electronics.

I lunged towards the coffee maker and turned it on. I prayed. “Thank you Lord, for all the things we take for granted like lights and warmth and power. Thank you that we are always in your hands even when we think we’re doing just fine on our own.”

I looked at the coffee filter in my hand. I turned the machine off, pushed it back in the corner and unplugged it. I don’t even drink coffee.

Pam Mytroen


  1. Loved this, especially - "And then the kids started to burn toothpicks and chocolate bar wrappers in the candles. And then it was over. They drifted off, staring at the Wii, much like I had stared at the coffee machine." So typical.

    But I wanted to enjoy that wonderful buzz of first-coffee with you. When I am deprived, my creativity reaches new heights (or depths?). I've seriously considered using the camping Coleman to brew a pot - indoors!. Good thing cooler, less caffeine-deprived heads prevail or it might be the last cup of coffee I ever drink.

  2. Hi Violet, ha ha, yes please do not bring your Coleman indoors! Actually, truth be told, I do drink coffee, but not very often. I just thought it was amusing that as soon as you I couldn't have something, that's all I could think about!
    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This was hilarious... well, I guess your last line made me LOL.

    We had a few hours of power out last Christmas.... we had invited the neighbours to come for coffee and dessert before we headed to a seasonal choral concert.

    The beautiful tree with its twinkly lights stood in darkness as we sat around in the living room with flashlights beaming on the ceiling.

    Fortunately the dessert, which was still baking in our natural gas oven, continued to bake even in dark.

    It's become one of those cozy moments......... what is it about sitting around in the dark that brings people's souls together?

    Anyways..... loved your piece, Pam!
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi Brenda, thanks! Yes, those moments of cozy togetherness stand out in our minds. I think we need more of them! (But with the power on!).


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