When hydro went out

August 11, 2022   ·   0 Comments

Growing up in the country in our youth, our hydro was generally very reliable. When it did go out, it was usually for a good reason. Snowstorms brought the lines down during the winter, a tree fell over the lines during a summer storm, and so forth. Generally legitimate reasons.   

But occasionally at random, usually in the summer, the hydro would go out for no seemingly apparent reason! And to make matters worse, when the hydro did go out it always seemed to happen in the evenings just before dusk! 

Rather than just sitting around like lumps waiting for the approaching darkness, we would spring into action and hunt around the house for a working flashlight and batteries so we would be able to find our way around in the dark. 

But because the hydro went out so infrequently, the crappy batteries in the flashlights back then always seemed to lose their charge long before we ever had reason to use them and we would usually end up sitting in the dark twiddling our fingers waiting for the hydro to come back on.  

When that happened we tried searching in the darkness by match light through all the drawers in the house, desperately trying before our fingers got burned to find enough batteries with juice left in them to power a single flashlight. We were usually unsuccessful and had to continue to sit around in the dark until the hydro came back on again. 

We did have a few candles that we tried to use, but we never seemed to have the proper holders to put them in. After setting them on an angle in little glass bottles, the melting wax from the candle would usually drip on the kitchen table and the little bit of light they gave us was hardly worth the effort.   

After the hydro came back on, we would add batteries to the list of things to get the next time we were in town. But by the time the hydro went out again the fresh batteries we picked up in town were usually dead again and the circle of frustration continued.  

After experiencing a couple of more power outages and the resulting aggravation of constantly having dead batteries in the flashlights, Dad had an idea. It harkened back to his days on the farm. 

He found an old coal oil lamp, still in good working condition complete with wick and bought a can of coal oil. He filled up the lamp and put it away in a safe and secure place for the next time the power went out.

And sure enough, eventually the hydro went out yet again.

When that happened, Dad went to the special spot, got out the coal oil lamp, put the lamp in the middle of the kitchen table, removed the clear glass globe from the lamp, primed the wick, and lit it.

He adjusted the size of flame so it didn’t smoke and then placed the clear glass globe back on the lamp. 

And we had plenty of light to see each other around the kitchen table. 

And, smiling, we all gathered around the kitchen table and waited for the hydro to come back on.

The glow from the coal oil lamp was neat to us kids, like living in a time from the past. In some ways it was kind of like sitting around in the light of a campfire at the kitchen table!

Having nothing else to do around the table, sometimes we would play games or often times we would just start talking to each other. Mom and Dad would start telling stories about when they were kids, we would start talking about stuff that was happening with us, and so forth. 

And the time would just fall away as we talked to each other about any old thing in the light of the coal oil lamp and revelled in the simple joy of sitting around the kitchen table enjoying each other’s company.  

Sometimes we would be enjoying what was happening around the table so much that we would all be a little disappointed when the hydro came back on. Dad would dampen down the coal oil lamp, blow it out and return it to its special secure place and after that things in our house would return to normal.  

Sometimes the most special family times are the times you don’t realize are special at the time they occur. Only much later in hindsight do you actually begin to realize just how special certain times were that you took for granted as a kid. 

And our entire family sitting around the kitchen table in the evenings with the hydro out playing games or simply talking to each other in the light of the coal oil lamp was a rare and special bonding time for us. 

I hope you had some special family times when the hydro went out that made for some happy memories for you as well!  

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