We sat in the dark with only candlelight and flashlights to illuminate our faces and we read to each other.
The air in the house has been chilly since we lost power from Tropical Storm Sandy Monday night so my husband, sons and I huddled together for warmth. Our house looked like a set from "Phantom of the Opera." As the batteries ran down on the kids' school laptops, they were faced with what sometimes seems like a last resort: talking to their parents, in a conversation, without using their texting thumbs.
Our older son was in search of a monologue so we started reading aloud from various plays and cracking each other up. It all felt like it had when the boys were little before electronics encroached on our family time.
I don't mean to romanticize this storm. It has had disasterous consequences, costing lives and homes and done terrible damage to whole towns on the Jersey Shore.
On a more trivial note, I'm a big fan of hot showers and warm homes and electricity for everything, including computers and cell phones.
Just like with the long power outage that started with the storm about this time last year, friends and family with electricity have been opening up their homes to offer those amenities to us blackout refugees. We carry shampoo, towels and changes of clothes in our cars.
It's times like these that you see the value of a strong support network built over a thousand cups of coffee and baby-sitting trades, over carpooling and hand-me-downs.
You also see the importance of the unwritten rules we follow in our dealings with strangers. As of this writing, many traffic signals still don't have power, which means drivers at intersections have to take turns. The system doesn't work perfectly, of course. Some drivers go before their turn. But all in all it's pretty impressive that there aren't more accidents and acts of road rage. It's community by necessity.
"Daily Show" host Jon Stewart talked about this phenomenon at the end of his "Rally to Restore Sanity" at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2010. He described how drivers trying to merge from several lanes into a tunnel have to work together, regardless of their political differences (as seen on their bumper stickers.)
"You go, then I'll go," he said. "You go, then I'll go."
In times like these, we cooperate and reaffirm our ties to our family, our friends and the greater community because the alternative is a sad, dark place where nothing works.
It's a shame it sometimes takes a storm to remind us of that.