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Six Days Without Power: The Perfect Christmas Gift

Downed branches and power lines in my parents' driveway. Sunday December 22, 2013.
Downed branches and power lines in my parents’ driveway. Sunday December 22, 2013.

On Saturday night, as I ate dinner with my parents at their house in Georgetown, Ontario, the lights went out. I had been here less than 24 hours and suddenly the creature comforts of home were gone. With the power out, I ventured out to seek refuge (and a couple adult beverages) with my best friend Dave and his girlfriend Vanessa. As I walked home just after midnight, I was confronted by the scope of the storm as a live power line was strewn across the road with a police officer warning to stay back.

Through the night, the steady sound of (freezing) rain fall was periodically interrupted by crashing tree branches. As the sun rose on Sunday morning, we emerged to discover a thick sheet of ice, tree limbs blocking roads, and a neighbourhood devoid of electricity. Around 10 AM a final blow landed as a branch from a tree in the front year finally succumbed to the weight of the ice, bringing with it the lines that connected the house to the hydro pole, thus ensuring a lengthy outage

Me cooking up some breakfast in the great outdoors. December 24, 2013.
Cooking up some breakfast in the great outdoors. December 24, 2013.


All was not lost, however, as the gas fireplace in the basement never went out and water continued to flow out of the taps. Since Sunday, we’ve managed to clean the driveway of branches and ice (although one large branch remains perilously perches atop a tree, just waiting to be brought down), had a fair share of meals on the BBQ, and retreated to the basement to sleep.

It may not be the most comfortable set-up in the world, but it works. And as we approach a week without power, I can’t help but think that this whole thing may be the greatest Christmas gift I’ve ever received.

This presents a unique opportunity to truly reflect on our lives and how much we take for granted. Compared to a lot of people in this world, not having power

Getting ready for Christmas dinner at St. George's Anglican Church in Georgetown, ON. December 25, 2013.
Getting ready for Christmas dinner at St. George’s Anglican Church in Georgetown, ON. December 25, 2013.

for a few days adds up to no more than a minor inconvenience. What else can we ask for? We’re all healthy, happy, and, perhaps, even growing closer through this experience.

We had Christmas dinner at the church, Boxing Day at my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Waterloo, and have manged to retreat to friends’ places for showers and respites from the darkness. Sure it’s an experience I hope ends soon and that I probably wouldn’t want to relive, but it really could be much, much worse.

I’ve always wondered why I’ve been so fortunate in my life – professionally I love what I do and personally I’ve been blessed with a terrific family and great friends (the offers of help from those with power have been overwhelming) – and the past few days have cemented this in my mind.

The things with which I get annoyed or frustrated are, frankly, rather insignificant (just ask the pencils that have been victim to my irritation when trying to format a SSHRC application). Too often we treat these problems as major, life-altering events when, in reality, they are nothing more than trivial hassles.

With my cousins in Waterloo. December 26, 2013.
With my cousins in Waterloo. December 26, 2013.
With my cousin Megan and soon-to-be-cousin Andy. December 26, 2013.
With my cousin Megan and soon-to-be-cousin Andy. December 26, 2013.

This is particularly true at this time of the year. The meaning of the season gets lost amid shopping, a litany of social events, and generally difficult travel. For many people, December was a month of excitement as kids, but has become a month of stress as adults.

It is for that reason that this ice storm and the resulting powerlessness represent a wonderful gift. It is not often that we take the time to reflect on how lucky we are and truly appreciate all that is good in our lives. It’s unfortunate that it takes such a jolt to remind us of this, but if that’s what it takes to offer a reminder of how grateful and appreciative we should be, I’ll take it.

My grandmother – who died in September – always said to me how lucky we were. In some way, maybe the power outage at the Graham house has been her way of reminding me of that while at the same time giving us one last Christmas gift.

Family and friends in Waterloo. December 26, 2013.
Family and friends in Waterloo. December 26, 2013.
My Dad coping with the cold in the basement. December 24, 2013.
My Dad coping with the cold in the basement. December 24, 2013.
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