On Christmas Day, I went into my kitchen at 11:30 a.m. to start lunch preparations. I began cooking some rice pilaf; scallops had thawed in the refrigerator. Carols played softly on my phone. I had even donned one of my vintage aprons, inherited from an aunt, for the occasion.

The lights flickered. I held my breath. They didn’t go out. I allowed myself a moment of hope. Then the house went dark.

Really? In the terrible year that was 2020, Christmas was going to be ruined, too?

The wind was howling that day and a not very festive rain was falling. I wasn’t shocked that the power had gone out. We live in town and don’t often lose our electricity, but we did for four hours in the rain/wind event a few days after Thanksgiving.

That was a worry because without power, our sump pump doesn’t work. In the post-Thanksgiving storm, the cellar started to fill with water. I could accept the loss of the washer and dryer, but I feared for the furnace, which had just been installed in the summer of 2019. The installer called it the “Mercedes of furnaces,” but Lamborghini was more like it. It’s a bright red Italian model.

It wasn’t cheap, but would homeowner’s insurance cover replacement? They might claim it was a flood, and we don’t have insurance for that.

The fact that this was happening at 2 a.m. was not helping.

Fortunately, the power came back on that time, before any damage was done to anything in the cellar.

Now, on Christmas, we were back in the dark. In normal times, I might have sulked. But I don’t have the energy to do that anymore. I sometimes feel like I’m sleepwalking from one bad event to another. I had said it would be a good holiday if my husband, Paul, and I weren’t quarantining or actually sick with COVID-19. We weren’t, so I needed to remain stoic.

After checking on the basement, Paul inquired about lunch.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Cheese and crackers?”

We have a wood stove, but it really heats up the house. With the outside temperature hovering around 50, using it would make the indoor environment unbearable.

Which was too bad. About five years ago, the power went out on Christmas Eve. So I couldn’t make tourtière — French meat pie — as I usually do. It was a tradition in Paul’s family that we still carry on. Instead, I heated a can of soup on the woodstove, and made the tourtière for New Year’s Eve.

Wait — tourtière. I made one on Christmas Eve 2020, and it’s fine cold. I’d made cranberry sauce, too, and we had pickles. That was supposed to be Christmas supper, but we could have it for lunch instead. With any luck, the power would be back on by 6 p.m. and we could have our scallops then.

I took the rice off the stove and was pleasantly surprised to see it had continued cooking and just about all the water was absorbed. It would just need a few more minutes on the stove — whenever.

I’d been preheating the oven before the blackout, so it was still warm. I popped the tourtière in for a few minutes.

We ate by candlelight.

As I brought the dishes in to the kitchen, I happened to look out a front window. I could see CMP trucks in the next road. Now I definitely felt better. Hope was on the horizon.

I opened the shutters in the living room so I could read. I had put aside a couple of books for the day: “A Maigret Christmas,” by Georges Simenon, included three novellas set in Paris. P.D. James’s “The Mistletoe Murder” compiles five stories, two of which feature her police detective/poet Adam Dalgliesh.

Somehow it seemed fitting to be figuratively tiptoeing around drafty English manor houses while I sat wrapped in an oversize scarf in a cooling house without power on Christmas Day. The candle lantern flickering on the end table next to me just added to the atmosphere.

Oh, no — the CMP trucks were pulling away. Don’t give up on us, I silently implored.

Then the lights came on.

Paul and I walked around resetting the clocks. I put the carols back on. It had only been an hour and a half, but it felt like an eternity, simply because we didn’t know when it would end.

We only had a respite of an hour and a half. I heard a strange banging noise that sounded like it was coming from across the street. Then, flicker, flicker, flicker — and out again.

Quite strangely, this outage lasted an hour and a half as well. Once again, I could see CMP trucks working in the neighborhood. Once again, I reflected on the simple things. I had a comfy chair by a window. I could read. It wasn’t like I had any place to go.

When the lights came back on, they stayed on. Paul and I enjoyed our holiday dinner and our annual viewing of the movie, “A Christmas Story.”

I went to bed grateful that the Lamborghini in the basement was humming, the refrigerator was purring and the clock on the microwave was glowing 9:35. The most horrible year ever was coming to a close, and I was one lucky human.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected].


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