Do you remember power outages as a kid? I realized something today. Not much has changed in my mentality about them, at least for short outages where eating and water use aren’t disrupted.
The lights were out when I got to work this morning. The drive was disorienting because the lights were out all the way up the street to the intersection I turn at. I almost drove right through the intersection, not recognizing it in the pre-dawn darkness. My first thought was to hope that the lights were out at the school so we could have an impromptu morning off. That reaction is a childish one, by which I mean it hasn’t changed since I was a child. When you’re a kid, a breakdown in the systematic orderliness of the world means more time to play.
Most of the lights were off at the school, but as safety regulations would have it, a generator was up and running the water and just enough lights that I couldn’t quite justify canceling program while the school was still planning on opening. I ended up camping out with the kids in the main lobby with a couple of board games as the lights went on and off for the hour and a half of morning program.
I think the best thing about situations like that is the camaraderie that springs from facing the unknown. There’s something about being in the dark that makes you ever so slightly afraid of what you can’t see, but also a bit excited for the possibilities you could never imagine in the light.
Flashlight tag, for instance, was a game my sisters came up with during a power outage. Normal circumstances would never have established a situation in which we would be allowed to run around the house in complete darkness throwing flashlights at each other. Once the idea was dredged up by the creativity inspired by a sudden, unavoidable change, it opened a door that would not be shut. My sisters must have spent the next month randomly running through the house shutting all the lights off to try to drag everyone into a round of their new game.
Being an adult in charge of other people’s children just about broke my heart today because I felt obligated to squash that creative state by not allowing the kids to play in unlit areas. I couldn’t help but envision the legs of the cafeteria tables growing fangs and tentacles to snare and injure one of the kids at the very moment I would have to figure out how to use the school’s non-cordless phone system to call an ambulance. I made them sit and play board games, leaving them only the small pleasure of eating their cereal picnic-style to set their minds dancing with the delightful strangeness of the power outage.
Thankfully, kids do not need much leeway from adults to let their imaginations run wild.