Saturday, June 6, 2015
When you live in the country, you get used to certain things. Fact: trees are going to fall across roads and driveways and power lines. Now I know that’s going to happen occasionally no matter where you live, but I guarantee you it’s going to happen more often in the country. Like just this last Wednesday afternoon. There I was, coming down my country driveway, happy to be home in the big city after a day at work. I’d even stopped at the grocery store in town for a few things and picked up Chinese for supper. For the uninitiated, I should explain that my country driveway is a long sucker. It curves and twists for about three-quarters of a mile. Tree-lined curves. We’d had some storms that afternoon, though I hadn’t thought they’d been especially strong. Apparently, they’d been stronger than I’d thought in our little town. Small branches and twiggs were everywhere, so I was on semi-alert, even though I knew we’d had no tree come down on a power line because I knew my husband would have told me during one of the three times he’d called me on my way home to see where I was. Well, not where I was. Where his Chinese was. He was hungry.
I had to laugh when I saw the tree, just out of sight of the house, past the third curve going down the driveway or the first one going up the driveway, depending on which direction you were going in. “There’ll be a short delay,” I advised by phone. “There’s a tree down. Looks like it’s pretty rotten and I think I can shift it myself. But I’m not gonna be able to drive over it, so stand by.”
I got out and did some country cussin’ as my dress work sandals slid on the mud while I made my way over to the very visible crack in the tree trunk. Hmmmm. I bent and tried to lift. Not as rotten as I’d thought. I was about to pull out my phone again when I heard the front door open and my husband and dogs barreling out. He shouted up, I shouted back. “Need you after all. It’s heavier than I thought!”
It was a bit heavier than I thought but nothing like some we’ve had. He came up and made short work of shifting it over to the side. I drove on down, unloaded groceries and we ate Chinese. This tree’d been just a minor glitch in my afternoon. But oh, the memories it brought back! Memories of the night--I'm sorry, but I can't resist--the night the lights went out in Georgia…
The grandchildren were with us. That wasn’t unusual, my husband being already retired was and still is Granddaddy Day Care, and my daughter and son-in-law work unconventional hours and aren’t usually home till around 9:00 p.m. That particular night my grandson Austin was two months shy of seven and my granddaughter Kinsley’d just hit six months old. A Friday night two summers ago, when one last downpour of winds and thunder and lightning from a Tropical Storm moving from the Gulf up the east coast hit. It was around 7:00 p.m. Austin and I lounged on my bed in front of my bedroom tv/DVD watching “The Bee Movie” while he ate his supper, seein’ as how Kinsley was asleep on her blanket on the floor in the living room. According to Granddaddy, she’d been a bit of a prima donna that day and a little hard to please. In other words, “Do. Not. Wake. Her. Up.”
Suddenly the lights went out and the television screen went blank. Well, like I said, that happens when it rains sometimes and it happens quite often in the country. “Grandmama! What’s happened?!” It’s disastrous for the modern American adult when power goes out. For a six-going-on-seven year old, it was catastrophic. No DVD player, no lights, no computer?! “It won’t be out long, baby. We’re fine.”
So he and I grabbed my “Book” (Austinese for Nook) and retired to the back porch for more light. And more cool. It’s amazing how quickly a house gets hot when the power goes out. Even with all windows open. Especially on a humid Georgia twilight. At six-month-old, Kinsley didn’t really care about power per se one way or the other. She only cared that it was hot. This was unacceptable and she made that very clear.
After about thirty, forty-five minutes, hubby decided to take his truck up and check out the rest of our fair little crossroads town to see if power was out all over, or whether we were the only poor souls so affected, which was very possible, depending on where the line was down.
It turned out to be just us. There was a tree down at the top of the driveway. A tree rude enough to take the power line with it and then lay on top of it. Well, except for the parts of the power line draped across the metal farm gate fence at the top of the drive. The metal one. Live power wires and metal are not a good combination.
Austin, already disrupted by the power outrage, went into full panic mode.
“Grandmama, my heart’s scared! I’m never goin’ home!!”
“Baby, you’re fine. Granddaddy’s calling the power company and they have to come shut off the power before we can get the tree out of the way. They’ll be here as soon as they can.”
“I hope so, but you’re fine. What’s the matter, you’ve never spent the night with Grandmama and Granddaddy before?”
Kinsley, now both hungry and hot, protested loudly from the background. Coward that I was, I left it to Granddaddy to handle the hot and hungry fury and made myself useful by reporting the situation to the parents.
“I wanta talk to Mimi!” (Austinese for Mama. To him, my daughter was, still is, and probably always will be Mimi. Not Mama or Mommy, Mimi. We don’t know why, it’s just a fact.)
“Mimi, my love?”(My daughter’s called Austin “my love” or “my heart” since birth. Consequently, it was sometimes a bit unnerving to hear their phone conversations. The phrase “my love” isn’t part of most six year old’s vocabularies.) “The power’s out and my heart’s scared!! And it’s getting’ scareder by the minute!!”
Reassuring hug from Grandmama. Soothing murmers from Mimi over the other end of the phone.
“So can you tell Daddy to get his friends and come move the tree and come and get me?!”(The little traitor. This was the child who went anywhere with us for any length of time without protest. With enthusiasm, in fact. The kid who’d gone through Chicago rush hour traffic with us on a Thursday afternoon just a few months earlier shouting, “This is awesome! I love this city!”)
Granddaddy and Kinsley retired to the bedroom to try for a nap. Not terribly successfully from the sound of it. Austin and I played the apps on my “Book” until he tired of them and then sat at the kitchen table with the flashlight building Lincoln Log houses. Well, he did, anyway. He’d gotten me hooked on one of those damned apps. And finally, blessed quiet from the bedroom. There were still non-stop questions at the table , though.
“Are you sure we’re gonna be all right?”
“I’m never going home again!”
“Yes, you are, baby, it’s fine.”
At this point, I didn’t even care if the power even came back on till morning. I just wanted the tree out of the way so the kids could get home and I’d be happy as a clam. But Austin’s heart was “gettin’ scareder by the minute!” And what was I gonna do when the “Book” lost its battery charge, for heaven’s sake? Desperate, I texted Mimi (no point in feeding a six year old’s fears any more than I had to) and asked if the Sheriff’s Office could exert some influence with Georgia Power and move us up on the list of priorities. (My son-in-law’s a K-9 Deputy Sheriff.) She sent back, “Okay, but what can the Sheriff do? Georgia Power’s gotta handle the live wire!” I sent back, “I know but maybe they can give us emergency status—deputy’s children stranded with evil grandparents and so scared their hearts hurt!”
I don’t know if she actually complied with that request or not, but at 9:30 p.m., she called.
“We’re at the top of the drive with Georgia Power. They’ve been here about half an hour. The wire’s draped all over the gate. They’re hooking it up and pulling it back up in the air now. Shouldn’t be but another few minutes.”
“Mimi? I wanta talk to Mimi!!”
I handed the phone over and sank back in relief. “Mimi, they’re never coming!! My heart’s really gettin’ scared! And it’s gettin’ scareder by the minute!”
“Baby, they’re here! It’ll just be a few minutes and we’ll be down to get you! Got you a surprise!”
“Surprise?” Perked ears. “What, what, what?”
“It’s at home. You’ll be home in just a little bit. They’re working.”
Loud noise sounded from the driveway. Headlights!! A giant Georgia Power truck came down the hill, maneuvered and backed up—and started back up the hill! Noooooooooo!!!!!!!!!
Don’t leave meeeee…………
“Grandmama, they left, they left!! And the lights aren’t back on!!”
Then I realized, “They’re checking the rest of the lines on the driveway, stupid.” (NO, that was not directed at Austin, I was talking to myself.)
Five minutes later—surge of light. “Let there be light.” Truly glorious words. Whirr of overhead ceiling fans. Yes, yes, yes. Sound of incoming vehicle as parents came to collect children. Oh, glorious reunion! Or not. It seemed to have lost urgency with Austin.
“Grandmama! Now we can watch t.v.!”
Yes. Priorities here, please. It only took the sight of incoming headlights to send him flying out the door, though. And so ended the night when I was Trapped!! A prisoner of electricity in my own home. Our children and grandchildren headed up the driveway. Hubby flipped on the t.v. Only three innings into the Braves game seein’ as how they were playing on the West Coast.
We settled onto the couch, twisted the top off two bottles of beer and pulled open a bag of pork rinds. That’s how country folks celebrate. And we're nothing if not country.
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By Gail Roughton - June 06, 2015
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