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Powering down


By Kathy Pillatzki
Assistant Director
Henry County Library System

  Iím writing this in semi-darkness, because the power is out here at the library. I keep trying to think of ways to be productive, but itís surprising to realize how few work tasks I can accomplish without electricity.

  I caught up on some journal articles Iíve been meaning to read, then realized I have just enough battery power on my laptop to turn out a column. If that runs out, I suppose I can finish with pen and paper and type it later, but I hate doing the same work twice, so maybe it wonít come to that.

  Iím reminded of a night when my kids were younger and the power went out in our neighborhood. It wasnít terribly late, but it was already fully dark outside. We gathered all the candles in the house into one room and, with them ablaze, we had enough light to play board games for a while.

  After the board game fun wore off, and with no sign of the power returning, I got a book from the shelf and started reading aloud. I donít remember which book, though Iím sure it was a chapter book belonging to one of the children. It was very quiet in the room, with only the sound of my voice breaking the silence.

  Then the power came back on. Usually such a thing would be met with cheers. But that night, it just seemed jarring. The glare of the lights, the blaring of a radio, the beep of a computer rebooting, the whirl of the ceiling fan Ö our peaceful scene was suddenly harsh and noisy.

  I expected everyone to scatter and pick up with whatever they were doing before the power went out. But that night, something amazing happened. My oldest child jumped up, turned off the light, and said, ďLetís pretend that didnít happen.Ē Others turned off the blaring radio and noisy fan, and we picked up reading where we left off.

  We probably read for another half hour or so before we got to a stopping point and returned to our electronic lives. But even now, more than 10 years later, my kids remember that night and count it among their best childhood memories.

  As for me, I think it was among my best parenting moments. My children have done well at academics and music and sports, and Iím proud of all they do. But once in a while as a parent, you have a rare moment when you feel you have gotten something truly right. It might not come with a picture in the newspaper or a certificate or trophy, but itís something on a deeper level that you know they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

  These days, my family is as connected as anyoneís. We lead lives dominated by electronics at every turn. We can stream movies 24/7, Skype with friends halfway around the world and stay tethered to each other by instant message. Thereís nothing wrong with those things, theyíre just conveniences of the time we live in.

  But this summer, while the kids are out of school and routines are relaxed, I challenge you to power down. Disconnect. Pick a night to turn off anything that creates noise or glare. Choose a good book, light some candles and let the magic begin.



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