Suddenly, the lights went out.
On a chilly, dreary early Sunday evening here in the hometown, towards the end of a day during which I came home from church, helped her get together a humble Sunday dinner of soup and sandwiches, and then I could do no more than go to bed and strain to watch an unwatchable NBA game on TV.
After a customary Sunday afternoon catnap, then finding nothing worth watching on the tube still, I turned to a book. And I reached the good part.
I delighted to read in an anthology from the fine “The Wall Street Journal” columnist Peggy Noonan a column condemning stores opening on Thanksgiving Day reminiscent of a column I had written on this page last November. I loved her phrase, Black Friday bacchanal. I wished I had thought of it.
And while engrossed in all of that, the lights went out.
I lay there in the dark. I stared at the darkened page.
You and I live in a post-9/11 world. On that day most of us saw apocalyptic national disaster played right in front of us, on TV.
So when the lights go out these days, we modern Americans instantly think the worst. Is this the big one? I think of the old Fred Sanford comedy bits on TV in which the old man is “coming to join you, honey.”
In the dark my mind raced past the topics of terrorism, nuclear war, an electromagnetic pulse that destroys the nation’s electric system, something I still don’t quite understand.
There was no snow, no storm, no wind and no reason for the darkness to attack on such a peaceful night. My mind replayed old disaster movies and biblical prophecies and how little food there was in the fridge. It didn’t help that “The War of the Worlds” movie had been on TV in the afternoon.
Back in 1989 I was sitting on the floor and cutting mats for some of my photos, and I had the TV playing the lead-in to a World Series game. Suddenly the picture went black and I thought, oh, no, a picture tube in my old analog set had burned out and where can I take the TV to get it fixed.
But the muted audio sounded like people in the San Francisco baseball stadium were chattering excitedly as if something unusual was going on.
I peaked out the window to see if it was the big one.
It wasn’t. I soon learned of the famous Bay Area earthquake that had knocked out the TV video and postponed the Series for 10 days.
Now, still in my bed, the lights came back on after a moment or two, and I proceeded to read again contently. And then the lights went out a second time. All of the apocalyptic thoughts rushed back.
And then the lights came back on a second time, the stove clock mournfully wailed in its resurrection and all was well again. How silly of me.
Or not. This is a sensitive time. People are on edge about the election and the new leadership and the doom and gloom that is preached to us daily over the air and cable waves.
But we look around and the household is happy and the neighborhood is peaceful and the town is doing reasonably well and we all go back to our books, literal or figuratively, and dismiss the momentary unease by thinking how silly of us.
I checked the news the next day and found no mention of a reason the lights went out. They say false alarms can come by the dozens but disaster needs success only once.
The big one will come some day. It may the doctor saying the word cancer, or a heart attack, or a wreck that takes a loved one. Or it may be a national tragedy that changes the country once again.
But for now we bury our worry because the lights are back on.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself,” the Savior once said. And that must be sufficient.
May he forgive us, nevertheless, for being a little jumpy these days.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.
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