I’m not the pioneer I thought I was

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By Janny Wilcke

The recent power outage made me realize that perhaps my self-image has always been slightly askew. All my life, I have fancied myself the “pioneer” type; delighting in the sight of my baby’s freshly washed diapers flapping in the Kansas breeze, making jam out of the wild blackberries I picked myself on our farm, knitting cotton dishrags for the kitchen, and helping haul water when we still depended on a cistern.  I have always felt the simple life was for me, as if I could step into the pages of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and feel completely at home. But the past few weeks have made me realize that perhaps my romantic self-perception is not entirely accurate.

We lost our power after going to bed Tuesday evening, so I awoke Wednesday morning not only on the chilly side but unable to make a cup of hot coffee to start my day. I am much more able to focus after having indulged myself with a chapter or two of my current book while sipping my morning coffee.

Disappointed by this disruption of my regular routine, I could barely wait while my husband fed the animals before driving me in our truck to find my morning brew. I started to fidget when we saw that Marsh’s Corner Store in Bethlehem was closed, and my mood darkened significantly when we discovered that the Pleasureville Chevron was without power. Thank goodness, the BP station in New Castle was “pumping” coffee for like-minded folks, and I was able – temporarily – to get past my disgruntlement.

I like to walk on the treadmill in our basement every morning while watching “Good Morning America.”  I need that endorphin-heightening exercise to further jump-start my day. Dismayed by the lack of power, I suited up in layers of warm clothes, mittens, scarf, and hat and proceeded outside for my walk. Yes, the ice and snow had transformed the fields and trees into a breathtaking landscape, but I missed the warmth of the house and the pleasure of my morning routine. 

We lost our power for ten days – nine days in a row, one day on, and then another day off.  My husband lived on bologna and cheese sandwiches, while I ‘dined’ on cold Progresso-lite soup, rice cakes and apples. I sorely missed hot food, and I was not very gracious about having to forego my nightly microwave popcorn.

And let’s not forget the joy of hot showers and fresh clothes. Our house was too cold to undress so that I soon not only became frumpy with wild hair but also developed an attitude. My husband said he might change his mind about retiring if it means staying home with me all day.  I suppose the power outage was no harder on me than him, but he is more the strong silent type while I tend to vocalize my angst.  I’m pretty sure he was glad when it was bedtime each night and my complaining stopped. 

So I have had to conclude that I wouldn’t have made a very good pioneer after all. All those days spent huddling in front of the fireplace to keep warm, dunking rice cakes in cold soup and looking like a mad scientist have convinced me. I am a creature of habit. Maybe those pioneer women were too, but my indulgences require plugs and outlets, and there’s no way I’d want to do without them. I am grateful that Ben Franklin (or someone) discovered electricity. For the record, I’m revising my self-image.