There is joy in every day, some of it more joyful than others. One of my Category 4 moments of measurable euphoria came at 12:02 p.m. on Thursday.
After 71 hours of being unplugged and living in the dark ages, power was restored to my house.
I wasn’t there to see the light. I was in a classroom, teaching young minds. Still, there was great relief when I read the text message my wife sent early in the afternoon.
There was cause for celebration in my neighborhood, which was hit hard by Monday’s storm. It might have been cake-and-candle-worthy, except nobody had been able to bake anything in their ovens in four days. (And anything perishable in the refrigerator had to be thrown away.)
It might have been the longest stretch I have ever gone without being able to flip a light switch in the bathroom or push buttons on the microwave. (Out of habit, I flipped and pushed. But nothing happened.)
We have an ice storm every few years, when the pine trees start snapping like toothpicks and take down power lines. But those outages don’t pummel the calendar with no definitive end in sight.
Although the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it altered the course of our week, it hardly diminished the widespread destruction. Irma came and left an angry woman.
I have never seen such terrifying, sustained winds. The gusts made the trees look like those stick-man balloon figures you see flailing in a parking lot to attract attention for a big sale at the tire store.
For the next few weeks, or even months, it will be human nature to try to top each other’s survival story. Misery loves company. Some folks were spared more than others, but most of us suffered.
We lost one of our venerable pecan trees in the backyard. My guess is that it was at least as old as the house, which was built in 1924.
It was surreal to watch the tree take a hard fall Monday afternoon, a few hours after the power went out. I was standing, white-knuckled at the window when it landed over the top of a brick wall, toppling across the alley. Unfortunately, it landed on the roof and against the side of our neighbor’s house.
I surveyed the heavy damage in the Vine-Ingle neighborhoods the next day. It was a crash site of smashed roofs and flattened cars. I heard more sirens in three days than I had all summer. Giant hardwoods were pulled out of the ground by their roots. The soundtrack of the side streets became the frenzy of chainsaws.
Only a few of our neighbors had power, leading to outbreaks of electricity envy. Life seems unfair when porch lights are on down the street and you’re reading a book with a flashlight. (Yes, I know Abraham Lincoln studied by candlelight.)
Other neighbors wandered about, making references to taking cold showers and being weary of living in the 19th century.
At night, there were no streetlights. It was still and silent, like camping out under the stars. Sitting in almost total darkness, with no light pollution, made me wonder about what parts of the South must have have looked like before FDR and the Rural Electrification Act of the 1930s.
The only sounds at our house where the chimes of the clock in the hallway and the hum of a portable generator in a neighbor’s yard.
While eating supper at Jeneane’s, the standard greeting of “How are you tonight?” was replaced with “Do you have power?”
There was no real need to ask. Those with power had grins on their faces. I know a “glow gloat” when I see one. The community was divided into the “powerful” and the “powerless.’’
On the way home that night, my wife and I kept our fingers crossed, praying we would see lights in the windows as we approached our neighborhood. Our optimism was raised by the sight of a few, only to disappear, like bread crumbs on a trail.
I woke up one night, convinced there was a light coming through the bedroom shutters. Alas, it was only the luminary of a bright, quarter moon.
The next afternoon, a family member texted a photo of a utility truck on the next block. But that flicker of hope — no pun intended — was dashed by the darkness. We were castaways on a deserted island, spotting a ship that disappeared on the horizon without rescuing us.
Some parts of the city never lost juice. Other sections found themselves in pockets of power, nestled in electric grids that somehow were not affected, while everything around them shut down.
My family is still dealing with lingering issues of loss and damage. There are lessons, though, like the ones we learned living on the edge of the floodwaters of Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994. We have a greater appreciation for water when we are without it for more than two weeks.
As power is restored, tree limbs are cleared, the grumpiness subsides and life returns to a new normalcy. I want to thank all those who worked tirelessly to get us running again.
Although we don’t always show it, or know how to show it, we are grateful for your service.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism and creative writing at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.