Tonight, we were in the middle of giving our dog, Boo Radley, who had rolled around in some unmentionables in the yard, a bath when the electricity suddenly went out bathing the house in complete darkness. We immediately stopped in our tracks as the three dogs ran circles around us, completely unaware of the change that had occurred, or at least not bothered by the lack of light.
We walked downstairs and as Alex went outside to see how many other houses had been affected by the outage I lit candles, lighting our way around the house. I held the dogs back and walked outside to find Alex walking up and down the street. “It looks like it was just us and Norma.” He said. “Did you pay the bill this month?” He asked. “It’s not even due yet.” I said. “And yes I paid it last month. I always pay the electric bill.”
He walked back inside and I stood for a second in the dark yard and then followed him inside. I found the number for the electric company and pushed buttons around until I finally got to talk to a human being. I explained to him that we had an outage and he said the storms the previous night had affected an area they were working on and that several other people didn’t have electricity either, explaining that it shouldn’t be very long until service was back up. I hung up the phone and walked into the living room, watching the puppies jump all over Alex in the candlelight.
“Do you want to go for a walk outside and look at the stars?” I asked. “Not really.” He said, thumbing through his cell phone. “I’ll be sleeping. I need to go to bed.” I couldn’t imagine going to bed without the whir of a fan, so that was completely out.
I walked back outside and walked down the street towards our neighbor’s house, watching the blinking of the fireflies as they tangoed on a backdrop of black velvet with sparkling star lights. The night was magnificent. It was literally the perfect summer evening, something I had forgotten because of our busy schedule of cell phones, recorded television programs, meetings and social obligations.
And for a long moment, I just stood in the street and took it all in. The smell of the grass and the feeling of it’s dewy dampness on my feet, lightly scented with some June flower whose name I was unaware. I watched the fireflies blink and blink and blink, remembering catching them in glass jars with forked holes in the metal top when I was a kid. The stars in the sky were brighter than anything I could remember, reminding me gently of my aunt’s farm and how stars always seemed closer and more pronounced in areas of complete darkness. I listened to the trees in the woods gently sway in the summer breeze, their limbs clicking together a warm embrace.
Suddenly, I heard a door creak open and I saw our 90 year old, neighbor Norma walk slowly out onto her front porch. I didn’t want to scare her so I announced my presence. “Hey Norma, it’s Peter from next door. I think we have a power outage.” I said.
“Oh honey, I’m so glad it’s you. I was scared and I didn’t know how I was going to get to you and Alex.” She said. “What happened with the electricity?” I explained my conversation with the man from the electric company and she showed me that she had a flashlight so she was in no danger of falling as she leaned on her metal cane, standing rigid in her crisp, white summer pajamas. “Beautiful night though, isn’t it?” She said. “It is indeed.” I agreed, and for a moment we both stood there just enjoying an eleven o’clock hour together in June; a moment of grace we hadn’t expected. They come so very rarely these days it seems, these coming of age, To Kill a Mockingbird summer nights…
And then I walked back up the street and back into our house smiling, hoping for many more summer moments like these…because they’re the stuff that dreams are made of and well, because we’re on borrowed time as it is… ,