By RHONDA SCHROCK
It happened, of all crazy things, two nights in a row. A storm blew through, lightning crashed and the lights went out.
The first night, they came back on somewhere before dawn’s early light. And then late that night, it happened again. Thunder boomed, the wind whipped up, and a pole snapped right in two, putting live wires on the ground. The neighborhood went dark, and at the Schrock residence, the action commenced.
The in-house live wires who are always on the ground (when they’re not on the roof or up a tree) got busy. Out came those blasted little Maglites, and there went the headaches. Again.
Flashlight wars in the black of night will throw a mother straight to grumpy in the time that it takes to click one. As Little huddled beside me, frightened, his brothers lit things up, strobing each other’s corneas — and mine — with what appeared to be klieg lights.
It’s hard to administer justice when you’re reeling like a drunken sailor, eyeballs throbbing, with yellow spots dancing on the backs of your lids. It is. When I couldn’t catch them to apply some stiff maternal pressure to the lobes of their ears, I did what I usually do. I called for their dad (“Come quick! Save your kids”) and went to bed.
A person learns who their true friends are in times of need. “Two words—no power. Two more—no coffee. And two others — that stinks.” That’s what I told them when we awoke to a house without power the next morning.
“Two more,” said an aunt. “So sorry.”
Then one friend offered to deliver, and another one said she’d coffee me up if I stopped by her office. While their kind offers ministered to my sagging spirits, the fact remained that it was a jungle out there. Literally. And I was decaffeinated. Involuntarily.
Yes, in the seven-dwarf lineup, I was leaning hard toward Grumpy and right on the way to a family nomination of Grumpy, Sleepy and Dopey if I wasn’t careful.
Hey. You try clearing a jungle with that cocktail, OK? The backyard was a mess. The storm had ripped a portion of a large tree down and had thrown a small forest of other limbs and branches about the place.
Little Schrock, I noted, had morphed into Happy, another one of Snow White’s friends, at the prospect of a family workday. Caught up in the spirit of a common purpose, he trotted around the property, hauling branches and picking up sticks with all his might. Seeing him, I nearly burst into a chorus of “Whistle While You Work,” but it was too much for my decaffeinated state, so I settled for a feeble wave.
Mr. Schrock, on the other hand, had turned into Paul Bunyan. No ox, no ax, but a chain saw.
What was it about power tools that made a man happy? The more it roared and the more fumes it threw, the happier he was. Or that’s what the 32 teeth gleaming brightly above the Husqvarna’s blade told me.
For a girl, it took other tools to do the trick. Appliances like Keurigs and curling irons, things that didn’t roar or throw fumes. Those would put a girl solidly in the happy camp. That’s what I thought that day in the yard, bangs going roughly six directions.
Hopefully those NIPSCO guys up the road had done some serious business with Mr. Coffee before they came. As in espresso shots straight up. That’s what else I thought as I peered up the road, looking for signs of espresso-like actions.
It was later in the day, during a break from the cleanup, that I learned what made a lineman grumpy. “I don’t mind heights,” I heard one of them say as they installed a new pole. “It’s the falling I don’t like.”
Aha. That would do it, I thought. Tumbling from the top of a utility pole would make a fellow grumpy for sure, no matter what his bangs were doing. Taking a swipe at my own unruly ones, I went back to carrying twigs.
From grumpy, then, we jumped right to happy when the power came back on. There went the air conditioner. There went the water. And there went the Keurig.
What relief. Yes, that capable crew had done their jobs, restoring the power once more. Heroes, they, right up there with the fellow who’d invented the original air conditioner and Mr. Epidural and his syringe who’d shown up at key points in my life. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same for the yo-yo who’d invented nylons. That was a dopey idea, I muttered darkly while straightening my curling bangs.
As I inhaled the steam arising from the mug, I forgave Dopey. Then I gave thanks for those who make our lives a little easier. For those who make us happy.
After being grumpily decaffeinated, Rhonda Schrock reports that she is, indeed, herself again. In other words, she’s back to being “one small, caffeinated American mom.” Happily — and thankfully — so.