We are made for sun. We are bent for light. And yet, roots of history dig us deep into this Canadian soil and we wouldn't dream of leaving for more than a heartbeat. The storm rocks our foundation and shudders our walls like a haunting and we sleep like babes through the first assault and wake to...silence. No hum of the circulation fan, no buzz of a light bulb, no vibration of the deep freeze or drone of the refrigerator. Everything looks the same. But everything is different.
Outside, ice lays her weighted head on winter-weakened boughs and sudden cracks burst upon the stillness as branches give way to this mocking seasonal oppression and fall to litter the lawn - wooden bodies martyred in their search for spring. Nature is grey. Chill seeps into our bones. I build up the fire and feed it logs. I feed it circulars. I feed it Walmart and Home Hardware and M&M Meats. I find my largest pot and brown ground beef over the fire and I am a pioneer.
"Ice Storm Chili," I yell and the children come. We eat from paper cups left over from a birthday party. Because we can't do the dishes. Because water has never been so precious. Because you don't know what you've got until it's gone.
The bathroom door must remain closed.
Night comes so early. Candles burn so low, wax dripping over the lip of the liquor bottle. Darkness is total. This is country dark. There is no perforating light from a passing car. There is no soft red glow from the clock radio. There is no time.
Her voice calls out in the darkness, heavy with sleep and fear and the stumbling over the toys she didn't put away. I throw my feet over the edge of the bed and find the carpet, chill seeping through from the cold floor beneath. My eyes are wide but the blackness is thick and ink and we are all blind and we are all invisible. I feel my way through the darkness and my hand finally lands on her warm head and she is
trembling and has always slept with a night light and this reality around her defines her fear.
Minutes? Hours? Sometime later she stirs and moans and, "Mommy, I think I'm going to puke..." And I'm jerked awake and struggling to strike a match in the blackness and light the candle at the moment she lets loose upon sheets for which I have no means to clean and I want to cry.
Morning takes longer to come than any other morning before and all I want is to shower. Ice falling off the roof sounds like an earthquake and the boys have eaten all the cereal and the bread box is empty. We eat canned pasta cold and feed the fire logs and Foodland and Shoppers Drugmart and pray for the lights to come on.
We play Uno. We roast hotdogs. I read a whole book. We smell like cabin fever. Keep The Bathroom Door Closed!!! My cell phone might only last another hour...
It is nearly night again when a familiar hum breezes through our house and I throw down the second book I'd just started and run to the bathroom - hallway light fluttering to glorious beaming above me like a halo of rescue - and I set the bathtub to fill (just in case this is not but a tease) and I flush the toilet - Oh, HALLELUJAH! Back in the kitchen I fill the kettle and bounce with the brilliant need to hold a hot cup of tea in my hands and I cook us a real meal with meat defrosted after two days in a disfunctional freezer.
And then the shower. The glorious, wonderful, steaming shower. And sheets in the washer and hands lost in hot dishwater and nightlights and charging the phone and the computer. And...And...And...
We are so spoiled. Ruined by the pleasures of modernism. Is a lamp not beautiful, cutting down the darkness with a comforting glow? Here I am with arms wide open - ruin me!