Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No, Mother, I do not want your flashlights

Yes, I have about 20 new recipes, and 5 book reviews, and 10 strange habits that I've adopted with the intention of saving the planet. But for now, enter my world--

I teach writing to children ages 7 to 15, that is, grades 2 through 8. I ascribe to the philosophy that writers write, and students who write much and often will eventually come to see themselves as writers. This year has been quite amazing in terms of the buy-in time. It's the third week of school, and already the kids are producing great works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. I attribute the success to tighter classroom management, a better grasp on the content skills, and brilliant children. =) However, teaching a writing workshop, despite the fact that the children are always writing, is not without careful preparation on my part. Not only am I working on daily specific, targeted mini-lessons based on what I observe as I conference with the kids, but I struggle to consistently live a life of writing myself, so that I have fresh examples to share with my students. After I read the eighth graders my latest "writers notebook" entry, they gushed, and encouraged me to publish my writing - "You know, in a book, or on the internet or whatever." So, this time, I took them up on their suggestion. Here is the entry i wrote sitting in the threshold of our apartment, darkness behind me, hall light flooding the stairway in front of me, my laptop plugged into the common outlet outside our door...

No, Mother, I do not want your flashlights…and other poor decisions

Oh, how lovely,! I thought to myself when I saw the fluorescent orange tag sticking out of our mailbox, someone must be sending us a package. I was giddy with anticipation after an evening of family, film, and thoughts about my future. This “package” must be another fun surprise. Only when I got closer to the flaming cardstock in my mailbox, I realized it might not be the “fun” surprise I had been expecting. Instead, it was a message from NStar Electric, letting us know that they shut off our electricity since “no one was living at the residence.” Funny, because I live here. And Mark lives here. And Buddy the cat owns claims to living here for the greatest percentage of time.

None of this residency information mattered as I tried to politely plead my case with the “emergency” operator at NStar. The “emergency” part of her title seemed like a farce. There wasn’t even a national or local disaster to contend with, and yet she still couldn’t help me. I would have to call back at 8:30am, she informed me, at which time I will likely be surrounded by 37 children under the age of twelve. That phone call occurring is highly unlikely.

“OK, well do you at least know when they might be able to turn it back on?”

“I don’t know. Maybe tomorrow. If we have someone free.”

You had someone free enough to turn off my electricity, I thought to myself, but thankfully not aloud. With a heaving sigh, I made a last pitiful attempt to evoke some shred of compassion from this woman who seemingly had no sympathy for my minor crisis (if only because of the food that we bought and prepared over the weekend).

“So, um, I guess this means you can’t help me. And my food will stay in the fridge, and hopefully not rot--” I trailed off. This was her cue to come to my rescue with a serviceman who she suddenly remembered was working, or perhaps she just spotted a supervisor who was available and interested in helping out a distraught customer.


“OK, well I guess I’ll call back tomorrow and hope for the best.”
“Yes, goodbye.” Click.

Plan B. I lit eight candles in all, and observed, frustrated, while three refused my match.
The apartment had a strange apple cider-y, plumeria Christmas tree scent to it. Undaunted, I settled into the comfy white leather recliner to steal some internet from the “3 cheney” network, and started dialing family to console me during this tragic time.

The first phone call I made was to my mother. As usual, she was quick to remind me (with a debatable degree of truth in her statement), that she had somehow predicted this debacle, as with every other moment of disappointment, disaster, or celebration I have or would eventually face. She loves a share in the credit for what happens to her kids. Once she established her prophetic role in the situation, she moved into advice-giving mode.

“Take out the flashlights I gave you when you were moving out! Just put those around the house and you’ll be fine. Make sure you have enough batter…”

I began tuning out. Somehow, her sharp memory forgot that I had said, while looking at her shelf of eighteen flashlights in an array of shapes and sizes,

No, Mother, I do not want your flashlights.

My mind’s eye wanders to the flickering candles in the kitchen. I don’t have enough for every room. I have to pick up Mark from the train station, but if I blow out the candles, we’ll have no light when we get back, because, in keeping with Murphy’s law, we ran out of matches. If only I had taken the flashlights.

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