I am chopping onions and garlic for dinner and my two year-old is playing with his cars. My house and my home are humming along just fine.
Earlier I had been sent home from work early. The University I work for decided to close campus for the next day and a half due to unheard of cold. The actual air temperature in Minnesota was -23F and, with the windchill, it was well into the -50Fs. These temperatures are no small matter, they are literally life and death.
Right before the water boils and as I am adding more onions to the pan, the power cuts.
Everything–the lights, the stove, and most importantly, our furnace–are plunged into darkness. Fear drops like a rock into my gut.
This can’t be happening.
My son is at my side in an instant, scared of the sudden dark and confused as to what happened.
“Mommy, turn the light on,” he says in his little toddler voice.
I wrap him into my arms, giving him a big hug. It’s for me as much as for him.
“It’s okay honey, I’ve got light,” I say and go searching for candles.
A hundred thoughts are racing through my mind. How long before the power is back on? How long before it’s too cold in the house? What will we eat for dinner without power? What if this drags on for days?
I light the candle and place it on the kitchen table. My plans for dinner are now abandoned and I search the pantry for anything that is ready made.
A quick checkin online tells me my whole neighborhood is down and that Xcel is projecting power will be back on in two hours–7 pm.
I take a very deep breath. It’s going to be okay.
But this is my wake up call. My family and I must stop relying on government and corporations to save us.
I scribble out a quick list, number one being that we need a generator. Just something to get us by while we wait for the power to come back on. Something that will heat our home enough when temperatures are deadly.
The power does not come back on at 7 pm as promised. I maintain my composure and keep our normal routine going.
I give my son a bath and bundle him up like I never have before for bedtime. We read our stories by candle light. I give him a big squeeze and tell him everything is going to be alright. But inside I am freaking out.
At 9:30 pm, I wake to the sound of the furnace kicking on and I notice the nightlight is on again. Relief washes over me.
Never again, I think. Never again will I live with that fear.