If you live in a small town in the hills of Kentucky, you may already know that, when the power goes out there, you might as well get used to life without electricity because it’s not coming back any time soon.
When I¿was 13, we had a huge snowstorm in Pine Knot that left us without power for literally two weeks. My friend Erica and I¿were watching TV¿in the basement at my parents’ house, praying that the snow would keep coming long enough for school to be canceled, when we found ourselves in total darkness.
In eighth grade, snow storms big enough to knock out the power are actually kind of exciting because it ensures at least two days without school and because it seems like an adventure.
After two weeks, though, I can assure you that the novelty is gone, and what you really want, if it’s 1998 and you’re in eighth grade, is to be able to turn the TV on at 4 p.m. and watch Carson Daly hosting “TRL.”
That January snowstorm also happened to be when I discovered the Delilah radio show. My dad managed to dig out and drive his faithful red Toyota to the local grocery store, U-Save, and buy batteries for our flashlights. I managed to finagle enough to keep my CD¿player going so I could entertain myself with the “Titanic” soundtrack. Sad, but true. When that got boring, I switched over to radio and found Delilah. I loved it so much I continued to listen to her every night even after the power came back on, a practice that lasted until college, much to my parents’ chagrin. I don’t know how many times they told me to turn it down and go to sleep during my high school career.
I also developed the habit of making tapes off the radio during those two weeks. I think the flavor that month was Matchbox 20, before I was really hooked on my beloved boy bands.
Since it was clear there wasn’t going to be school for awhile, Erica’s mom and dad let her stay with us for a few days for an extended slumber party. That was when we had the idea to call Erica’s crush, another Pine Knot Middle student named Brock. I don’t remember much about Brock, except that somehow during the course of their conversation, Erica learned that his middle initial was “L,” but he wouldn’t say what it stood for. Naturally, we assumed it was “Lee” and his parents had named him after a vegetable. In eighth grade, that was uproariously funny. I was definitely envious of Erica for not only having a boy to call, but also having the nerve to actually do it. Then, when she learned valuable information like his middle initial and started the great vegetable debate, you can imagine my admiration.
My family had a huge wood stove in our basement, and my dad always had plenty of wood stacked up and ready to go, so we mostly camped out down there, huddled around a fire. My mom tried to turn it into a game, calling us pioneers like the Ingalls family of “Little House on the Prairie.” Since she was the only one in the family who actually watched that show, my dad and I¿weren’t too in to the whole “pioneer” thing, but we did discover that you can do some great cooking on top of a wood stove with a cast iron skillet. Since Dad was able to get to the grocery store, we had the milk, eggs and bread necessary to make it through a snowstorm in Kentucky. We kept the eggs and milk buried in the snow outside the basement door to keep them from going bad, and my dad cooked pan after pan of scrambled eggs. I don’t think scrambled eggs ever tasted better, and my dad taught me his secrets for great eggs.
Years later, when he was in chemotherapy, he went through periods where the only thing he could tolerate were those eggs, and I was the only one he would let cook them for him. It may seem silly, but that made me more proud than just about anything I’ve done.
Apparently, everything that happened circa 1998-1999 greatly shaped the person I¿am today. Those of you who know me are nodding your heads now, the final piece of the puzzle finally put into place.
Since my dad was well over 6 feet tall and had a full, black beard, he looked a little like Paul Bunyan carrying in wood for the fire, especially when he wore a toboggan to keep the bald spot on top of his head from getting cold. He made it his life’s mission to keep the fire going for two weeks, and I¿can assure you, he succeeded. My mom and I started joking about what he might start trying to burn. Luckily, we had enough wood to last us, so the furniture was spared.
But there is only so long a person growing up in the ‘90s can live without TV and a hot shower, even if it does mean two weeks without school. I think I even missed school. I started having nightmares that I couldn’t remember my locker combination and I was late for homeroom.
Just when we thought we were going to be stuck in a powerless, snowbound house for the rest of eternity, the fickle Kentucky weather smiled on us and, all of a sudden, it was 50 degrees. Why I¿remember this particular detail, I have no idea, but when the power came back on, one of the TVs in our house was already tuned to MTV, and there was a Backstreet Boys video playing. That may have actually been what began my two-year love affair. The Backstreet Boys brought electricity and hot water back to southern Kentucky. What if it had been a different band on TV? I shudder to think about the kind of music fan I could have become.
At least I¿can say that I¿have survived two weeks without electricity. Right now, I’m having a hard time imagining living two weeks without the Internet. Of course, when you’re living with dial-up Internet that interferes with important conversations, like what Brock something-or-other’s middle name is (would his parents really have named him Brock Lee? I still want to know), it’s easier to do without.
Contact Rachel Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter, @ParsonsRachel.