There was light, the soft glow of the lamp in the corner of the living room serving as an ember as the storm-darkened sky quickly stole away the day’s remaining light. There was the soft hum of ceiling fans, the refrigerator going about its daily work, the steady voices of evening news anchors filling us in on the latest in our area.
And then, there was nothing.
No light in the corner. No fans circulating air. No refrigerator quietly working to keep our food fresh. No TV to keep us informed. It all stopped. Everything stops when the power goes out. Everything stands still when electricity, internet, and cell phone service all halt at once.
Such was the case in my neck of the woods on Thursday evening, as a tornado left a harried path of destruction in much of our area. While my immediate surroundings — my house, street, and neighborhood — were seemingly untouched by the cyclone, streets a mile south and a mile north were ravaged, as were other nearby towns. Old, thick trees were uprooted from the earth and tossed on power lines and homes alike, streets and yards were littered with debris, once quiet neighborhoods were reduced to disarray.
With widespread power outages in our area, suddenly, my family and I were presented a boundless stretch of time, a gift uninhibited by work emails, text messages, social media, or TV shows. We didn’t even have a clock to check — time, it seemed, had completely left the building.
All sitting in the same room with nothing but camping lanterns illuminating the space, our initial silence that came with the stillness of the missing electricity was quickly replaced by the laughter, excitement, and nostalgia that came as we reminisced about days gone by.
We discussed our favorite memories from different vacations and trips to Disney World, our most memorable meals, our versions of a perfect day. With each piece of our collective past shared, we jumped at the chance to offer up other moments we recalled along the way, interjecting with whatever came to mind and relishing in every detail of each one of them.
Looking around the room at the faces of my mother, my father, and my brother, I was overwhelmed and overcome. Overwhelmed by the amount of love I felt (and feel every day) for those three people, for who they are and what they mean to me, for who we all were back then and who we all have become today. I was overcome by all of the wonderful memories we’ve stored away, all of the pieces of our lives that we experienced together but also experienced in our own unique ways in the moment.
It was hard to not get emotional as we carried on through the night. Even though time seemed irrelevant with no house clocks to check or notifications to read, it was especially hard to not look around and feel that somehow, time was running out. That our time together — before my brother gets married or before such time I move out — was falling away faster than sand in an hourglass. That our family time as simply just the four of us, the way it has always been, is reaching its finale.
To watch my dad recall his favorite memories with a sprawling smile on his face, to watch my brother throw his head back and laugh before a story could even leave his lips, to watch my mom share her own favorite moments while her eyes glistened as she took the whole scene in was priceless. It was worth more than any sum of money could ever be. It was worth losing power for almost 24 hours — and truthfully, I’d lose power for even longer if it meant we could make that moment last forever.
So what matters today is the gift of time, time that stretches out with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nothing with which to be distracted. What matters today is a family that is worth more to me than the whole of the universe. What matters today are the memories we’ve made, the laughs we’ve shared, the many moments we’ve spent reveling in each other’s company.
What matters most today is that a power outage made our house run on family power, even if for one more night.