The Crucible

by Heatherann Franz Woods

My son asked me if we could turn the power off again “like that one time”. I was in the middle of making dinner, laundry stuffed in both the washer and dryer and every person in the house engaged in some screen-related activity. I laughed then dismissed it as soon as he went on his way.

When I went to call the clan to the dinner table, I found this 11-year-old lying in bed. No book, no tablet, no toy, just under the covers staring at the ceiling. I sat next to him, forgetting the spaghetti, and checked in. After mumbling he was fine and a little coaxing, he told me that even though we are all home all the time it seems like everyone is too busy to play. He is the youngest of seven, no cell phone, no playmates, no siblings that are not in the throws of teenager-hood or adult concerns. I stumbled over my excuses as I rattled off the list of reasons why we weren’t gathering around the table for games, having movie night or even eating all together religiously as we once did. The truth was, we were all just tired.

When the power went out, for us a mere eighteen hours, he was six years old. Everyone had a job assigned in case of emergency and we were prepped and ready in less than an hour. Candles, headlamps and flashlights were distributed. A fire was lit in the stove. Role playing games were discussed and chosen. It was one of the most fun nights we had together, because it was different and new and exciting. While my husband and I worried about cooking a meal, keeping everyone warm, and the status of friends and family, this little guy was having an adventure of a lifetime, and it was contagious.

Fast forward to the stay at home order in March. Again, frustration and worry for all of the adults, but to him it was a chance to see dad more, play with his niece and nephew, brush up on his Dungeons and Dragons, learn to cook and partake in chores that were at one time considered too difficult for him. We slowly let go the things we could not affect and packed summer with days in the trampoline pool, evenings by the fire pit and nights camping in the yard. Even his oldest brother moved back in bringing sword fights, basketball challenges and video game battles. We painted the kitchen, planted a garden, cleaned out the garage, and rearranged the house.

It is now December and that house is literally bursting at the seams. As we hunker down for winter and the magic of quarantine time fades, the walls are closing in and most here are weary, overwhelmed and exhausted by the constant company. My self included. I sit in my car with the heat on, the music up and my eyes closed just to get a break.

However, here is where the view we have of our situation matters. If, like my son, we take the experiences of the last nine months and look for the adventure, the challenge, the once in a lifetime opportunity to slow down and dig deep, it really has not been the worst year ever. I would suggest it could be the single most influential year in our life thus far. The shifts in connection, support, lifestyle and intentions I have witnessed in my friends and family are nothing but spectacular. People found their voice. They let up the floodgates on their creative juices. They reached out to old friends and cultivated new relationships. They re-evaluated the ways they support themselves financially and where they spend their money. They started families, moved out of state, went back to school. They opened cookbooks, businesses, and hearts. They found ways around seclusion through video chats and online meetings. They cared. A lot. I found more in myself in 2020 than at any time before, and for that I am grateful.

The point is, under extreme circumstances, forged in fire and buried in pressure, in the crucible of unexpected events, the most beautiful things can happen. The grind may take over and the concerns we have can outweigh the joy, but remember when just a few hours, or several months, gave us the opportunity to put it all down.

I am unsure how much longer I will have nearly all of my children under one roof but I know I am fortunate to not be alone. When I return from my car break now I listen for the laughter, smell the meals cooking and feel the warmth of the fire someone built and am thankful for the full house. Tired and all.

And tonight the power may just go out at my place.

Heatherann Franz Woods grew up all over, collecting life experiences and old addresses, until settling back in Spokane in December, 1999. A freelance writer, backpacker, gardener, plant lover, painter, mother, grandmother and want to be yogi, she is a self-described renaissance woman, still searching and still learning. She believes at the heart of being human is connection . Of living deliciously. Of being in life as love.

Owners of both Grounded Herbs and Edibles and The Missing Piece Tattoo, she and her husband Zack Woods, are cultivating different ways to participate in the community. With seven collective children and two and a half grand children, they keep busy but always have time for a chat.

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