6.30 pm. I’m here finishing up some work on my pc while keeping an eye on the boys as they play with their Thomas the tank engine train set, a phonics DVD on in the background. A nice, normal evening. And then, suddenly, electricity goes out.
The place gets so quiet, I hear a distant neighbour bawl “Oh lawd! Current gone!” The boys look at me in the last light, and my younger says “Mommy, put on the lights.” Explaining that I can’t because electricity has gone, I head into the kitchen scrambling around for candles, matches and torchlights. My older one says “Mama, use your cellphone light”, and I do, quickly finding the matches while feeling simultaneously proud of his intelligence (and more personally dotish that my four-year old had more common sense than me). Powered by his little superior memory, he then pointed out to me, the location of the lost candles…
With three candles being almost ceremoniously lit, the rooms now transform into an intimate, familiar space. I feel like a child again, and my popos snuggle up into the cosy couch while I plop down into my grandmother’s old rocking chair. “Story! Story!” they chant, and my mom-mom joins us. The boys add their ideas to the stories, and together we are transported into imaginary faraway lands with flying Volkswagen buggies and Monster Trucks with toothaches.
Then one reaches out for the candle flame and explaining that candles are not to touch, I begin to reminisce with them and am taken into the olden days when we lived in the tiny village of Coromandel. Above my grandfather’s shop, our wooden living quarters were often in darkness at night, because of the constant and lengthened power outages. And a particular memory pops up— a recollection of me as a toddler, stubbornly disregarding my mother’s warning and touching lit cockset… She sleepily smiles as I tell the story, and her past words echo in my mind—”You don’t need to burn to learn…”
The shrill sound of my cellphone ring breaks the memory, as my husband calls to say he’s on the way home. My mind now returns to the urgency of present time, and I promise the boys we’ll play “Boom Boom Chako Chako” after they eat ~~~ “Boom Boom chako chako” is a silly, funny game that their papa made up for my brother and I eons ago—it’s a game of tease-the-sleeping-lazy-monster-until-he-gets-up-from-the-bed-and-chases-you—no doubt created by my ingenious dad to get some rest time while keeping my brother and I thoroughly entertained.
I give the boys a list of easy-to-prepare-without-electricity food options, and they decide. They plop down on their little Cars tables with a plate of whole-wheat Crix, a slab of local cheese, chicken Vienna sausages, and imported Tricopilla guava paste (the closest thing you could find to guava cheese these days). Dipping their Crix in their warm cups of Milo, they clean their plates, asking for more. I sigh in rested contentment.
Then electricity returns. The A.C. unit comes on with a mechanical murmur, the harsh fluorescent lights invade our cosy space, and the television turns on. The magic is broken—and I look forlornly at my boys returning to their electric toys. But I’m happy, I’m happy that this small experience caused by T&TEC’s momentary incompetency, served as a prompter to me; that our traditions, those little mental fragments of long ago, and the simple, old way of life, should never be forgotten, but instead passed on to our children in this new, cold age of technology. My mother’s words “You don’t need to burn to learn…” resonate in my spirit, and I am grateful to my God for the reminder to relish these little things, before it’s too late.