I woke up on Wednesday, November 27 to the news that school was canceled. Slushy snow made travel dangerous. I embraced the snow day with my three kids, who were excited that there’d be a five-day holiday weekend. My puppy, Jake, got his first taste of straight-line wind and snowflakes that went right into his eyes and nose. He went nuts, and I laughed.
A few hours later, the power went out. No big deal. I’d been half expecting it and had stored away drinking water in the kitchen and buckets of water so we could flush toilets.
Outside, my trees leaned to the east, heavily burdened with sticky slush and unable to shake it off. Other trees broke, and power outages kept rolling.
We made the best of it. When darkness came, we tossed a magical flame packet into the fireplace and watched as our fire burned bright blue and green for an hour. We had LED balloons leftover from a birthday earlier in the year, and I blew them up to stand in as nightlights in bedrooms. We went to bed that night in a quiet house with no power, still halfway excited.
But it got old. Very old.
On Thanksgiving Day, the house was dark and strange. No Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to watch, no Lions game to see. No smells of pumpkin pie to remind us that dinner was going to be delicious. I didn’t feel very thankful. I went to my parents’ house to clean up and get more water. They had power, and my mother was simmering onions for the stuffing we’d enjoy later. But shortly after I arrived, and before I’d managed to fill up on water, their power went out.
“Nooo,” my mother whispered.
“Nooo,” I echoed.
Company was coming at 5:30. The turkey was still frozen; it was soaking in a warm bath but there’d be no more warm water now. Dinner was in crisis.
Thanksgivings in the past had been pleasant days, with one major task: make dinner. The simple ease of it amplified our thankfulness. This one didn’t even feel like Thanksgiving.
When it became clear the power wouldn’t resume in time for a turkey dinner, we postponed dinner and called the guests. My sister and her husband continued north from suburban Detroit after a conversation that I can’t quite imagine. Did they know what they were getting into?
The power came on at my house at 5:30 p.m., minutes before they arrived. We screamed for joy!
We turned off the lights anyway, and had a candlelit dinner. We ate soup and salad that night, made possible by my vintage gas oven that doesn’t even have a cord. It was the least Thanksgiving-like meal we’ve ever had on Thanksgiving. We enjoyed each other anyway.
This is what else is true. We were greatly inconvenienced on Thanksgiving Day, but that is only true because we have so very much every other day of the year.
And we still had much to be thankful for. We were safe at home, with a raging fire in our woodstove, and clean, dry clothes to wear. Our pantry was decently stocked with food and we were only hungry until we decided what we wanted to eat. We also had each other, plenty of candles, and those pop-up lanterns that Costco sells in three-packs.
While we safely waited for power to resume, dozens of linemen were taking downed trees off power lines, replacing broken poles, and restoring outages one at a time. They were aided by linemen from two unaffected regions in southern Michigan, and they worked so hard to help us.
We were so thankful for them.
As I write this, we are in the midst of the next snowstorm, the Thanksgiving event eclipsed now by great drifts of powdery snow that have barricaded us into our home. I am not sure the power will last, and I am typing quickly.
But I am clean, and warm. There’s fresh water waiting in the kitchen and the laundry room, just in case. The fireplace is churning out heat, and a stack of wood outside feels like a promise.
We have so very much. This is also true.
- Carol Stiffler