Hurricanes Suck and Backwoods Childhoods Rock
September 05, 2011 | ~3 mins read time.

After a week with no electricity, I have come to appreciate the way I grew up in a manner I never thought I would. When I was young, my grandparents didn't have electricity until I was about 4. I vaguely recall two uncles and my dad putting the wiring in, but it wasn't the most reliable system. There was no running water in that house until I was nearly 17. That wasn't that long ago. I have fond memories of the house on Telachick Road.

There were a lot of nights where kerosene lamps were the only lighting. We had to wander across the road and down a little path to the creek with 5 or 10 gallon pails (depending on how old we were and what we could carry) to fetch water for drinking, bathing, and cooking. This was not much fun when it was raining. That path got slippery when it was muddy. It was weirdly easier in winter. At least a person could get some traction in the snow even if Grandad had to keep a hole cut in the ice to get the buckets down.

We got lucky. Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time it hit Connecticut, but even then she did a ton of damage. Luckier than Virginia, despite the lack of power for 8 days. We had running water and our landlord had the foresight to install gas appliances. I had to tell a woman who was 20 years my senior (I'm only 33) in the grocery store how to light her gas burners so she could cook.

That was a strange experience. It never occurred to me that someone who owns a gas range wouldn't know how to light it when the electric starter isn't working but the gas is still available. Our landlord came over and lit the pilot light on the water heater, so we had hot water the whole time too. I didn't know our water heater was gas before Irene. I had to do dishes the morning we lost power. I lit the stove with a fiery stick, since I didn't have any long matches handy, and proceeded to boil water. It was like second nature even though I haven't had to do it in a very long time.

If that had failed, I'd have built a fire in the charcoal BBQ to boil the water. Yay for stainless steel pots! My biggest complaint was lighting. We were late getting to the store for candles, but when we did get there I realised it would have been futile anyway. Apparently, no one sells boxes of utility candles anymore. Or at least in this area of the USA, they don't. We used to stock up on them when I was a kid. By "stock up", I mean have on hand about 2 dozen white tapers with long-burning wicks.

The camping section had one propane lamp for sale and no compatible mini propane bottles to go along with it. I decided that we are going to invest in a couple of nice, bright kerosene lamps for future power outages. Or I'll make candles. They're not as bright, but easy to make. Yes, that was my issue when we had no power - light in the evening. We had people whining all around us about no power, nothing to do when it got dark, and so on.

I certainly am appreciative for growing up the way I did. I'm thankful that Irene wasn't so bad here that we didn't have water or that I had to go so far as to build a makeshift toilet in the back yard (yeah, my grandparents had an outhouse too) or haul water from the river for bathing. No power and no indoor plumbing is no excuse to get filthy. At least, not filthy like that.

So, anyone know where to buy an old fashioned kerosene lamp or two?