The Opposite of Vacation

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In Houston, TX, summer is the season of storms. Unexpected rain, the sky grows dark in moments and in the distance, the sudden sound of thunder. And then, lightning lights up the sky like a jagged scar. The wind is ever present in Houston and angry – unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in Michigan or anywhere else. And then, the rain stops, the sky grows light again and if the ground wasn’t still wet from the recent downpour, one would almost think they had imagined it.

A few weeks ago, we had such a storm. It began as we were eating dinner and we commented on the darkness of the sky, how brutal the wind seemed. I half-wondered if I should bring the potted plants indoors. But I didn’t want to get up from my seat … and then, it was over. We went back to eating, and just when we felt like the storm had been thoroughly unremarkable, our power went out.

“After six powerless days, I was at my breaking point. My own home was a foreign place to me.”

Because Texas is on its own power grid, loss of electricity is not uncommon, especially during these storms. Ten minutes and it’s back on, sometimes only a few seconds. But the power went out, and it stayed out. The next morning it was still out when we awoke, and we both had messages letting us know that power was out at our workplaces, as well. We drove to the grocery store, more for something to do than anything, as it wasn’t like we could do much but buy ice to put in a cooler as our refrigerator was obviously as non-operational as the rest of the house. But, there was no ice, no open gas stations, stores had been picked through.  Trees, wholly uprooted, some of them three or four feet across at the trunk, lay in the streets as though plucked up by some careless giant and then tossed aside. Power lines lay tangled on the ground. My son’s school had trees crash down through its center, the iron fence out front pushed down like wheat in a field.

Our own house was virtually untouched; a garden gnome was even able to faithfully stand his ground. Our wind chimes had made quite a racket, but other than that, we were completely unaware of the destruction that – as we later found out – a tornado had caused around our city and many cities around us.

The next few days were challenging, to say the very least. Our power remained off as the temperatures rose to the high 90s. We spent most of our time sequestered in our backyard in a shady spot, keeping cool in a kiddie pool. The house was unbearably hot and almost impossible to sleep in. As the weekend wore on, power started to be restored around town, specifically at both of our workplaces. After suffering all night long in the stifling heat, work was almost a reprieve, a place to cool down, charge up our mobile devices and take our minds off the situation at home.

But, after six powerless days, I was at my breaking point. My own home was a foreign place to me. Hot, dark, dusty from pet hair and crumbs which couldn’t be vacuumed up. All of our food in the fridge and freezer had to be tossed out, hundreds of dollars worth stuck into trash bags and hauled to the road.

But on day seven, with no warning, I received notification that our power was restored. I have never been more excited to clean my house. I took a half-day the next day just to grocery shop and scrub away the whole experience. And so, a full week later, we found ourselves again eating dinner, forks and knives clinking on plates; but this time, it felt like we were at a resort, like a vacation, like the most beautiful, boring night in the world – mostly because we weren’t sweaty and miserable; but also, because we had our home back.

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