When I was little, I lived in Chicago until we moved about 5 miles north to the suburbs when I was in 7th grade. You wouldn’t think 5 miles would make a difference, but it was surprising to me even as a child.
In Chicago, if the weather was tolerable, everyone was out on their front porch (stoop, actually) in the evening. You walked up and down the block and chatted with your neighbors. I knew everyone’s name on the entire block. All of the kids played together and none of the adults would hesitate to yell at any of the kids if they saw some wrong doing. It was a time of mostly black and white TVs that got five channels if you whacked the side of the box and managed to get the aluminum foil antennas aimed just right.
There were no VCRs. If you missed your show, you missed it. No ipods, no video games and no computers. The other kids and I played games, put on shows, read books, rode our bikes, drew pictures and talked. We had to use our own imaginations and there is a lot of power in that.
When we moved to the ‘burbs, no one was ever outside. I lived in that house for 10 years and only saw my directly across the street neighbors once. There were few other kids on the block other than the one who would many years later become my hubby.
There were no gangways to hide in and share secrets, no graveled alleys to fall off your bike and get a good case of road rash and no neighbors on their front stoops. In fact, there were no front stoops at all. If people were out, they were in their backyards, with real patio furniture and surrounded by privacy fences. I still live in the suburbs and for the most part, it is still like this.
Last week, though, after the storm and the loss of electricity, people started coming outside. I saw some of my neighbors that I haven’t seen in ages. The kids were all running around outside because none of their electronic hypnosis causing devices worked and for a second, I was transported back to a childhood summer evening in Chicago. It was nice.
I’m not much for “roughing it” and truth be told, I would have had a very difficult time going without power for four days, too, which is why we ended up at the hotel for the weekend. The kids, though, started moaning about being bored within 10 minutes of the power outage. I tried to oh, I don’t know, take a shot in the dark and suggest some “no electricity required” options they could try..
Today is Thursday Thirteen...and here's mine...
1. Your minds. Tell stories. Ghost stories, even. Put the flashlight under your chin and make scary faces.
2. Pens and paper. I’m not even sure my kids know how to write. They don’t even teach cursive writing in our schools anymore other than to have the kids practice signing their names? Crazy.
3. Sudoku, Crossword, Search A Word and Logic Puzzle Books. Yes, you think and then you write in them with that stick called a pencil.
4. Books! Chock full of actual words and ideas, not just OMG, WTF, brb and c ya!
5. Scrabble...and yes, I am still on my winning streak!
6. I’m pretty certain that all of those thousands of dollars of saxophones, trumpets, flutes, piccolos and acoustic guitars we own probably still work without having to be plugged in.
7. Lawn chairs. You can actually sit in them and just take a minute to look at the world around you or talk or read...whatever!
8. Your mouth still works without electricity. Have a conversation with somebody!
9. Portable battery operated radios and TVs. I know, it’s roughing it without cable, but that scratchy noise they make really takes me back.
10. Feet. Go take a walk in those $100 Nike shoes I just bought with the removable pedometer chip that you can plug into your Ipod. It will give you something to look forward to when the power comes back.
11. I was still able to operate my bike without electricity. I even pedaled around the neighborhood looking at everyone’s messes.
12. The dog. Oh, I don’t know, since he can’t work the video game clicker, maybe he’d like it if you threw him a ball or something.
13. And, most surprisingly, toilets! Yes, one of my children was hopping up and down. Since they are teenagers, It’s been quite a while since I have asked one of my kids if they had to go potty. The answer I received was yes.
Silly Me: Well, then go.
Child: Mom, we don’t have electricity!
Silly Me: So take a flashlight.
Child: The toilet works without power?
Good Lord. The bulbs in the lamps weren’t the only ones that went out last weekend, I guess.