For the last hours of daylight, we hang on cheerfully, reading in corners by the windows, sweeping the kitchen floor, bundling the newspapers. But as twilight falls, and we migrate toward the screened porch and the last shreds of light, and the color begins to wash from the brilliant goldfinches at their feeder, Ranald curses the fact that we didn't buy a generator. Eleven-year-old Trevor experiences computer withdrawal.
We draw around the stubby white candles bought in bulk for just such an occasion, and though I'm well aware of my son's aversion to performing, I suggest the impossible: Why doesn't Trevor bring out his guitar and show me what he can do after a year of lessons? He drags out the left-handed instrument I haven't heard him play since the lessons began. He runs through his repertoire—the chords G, C, E, and his favorite: G7. We get a bit of melody, a random made-up tune. His even features are serious and keen and focused over the frets and strings, and I see why guitarists make girls fall in love.
After Trevor plays his song, he picks up the flashlight, making wide, abstract arcs like ribbons against the blackness. Lizzy begins to dance, stomping her heels on the cement. Trevor flashes the light on his little sister, around her, above her, so that her shadow falls on the scrim of the screen. Outside, a bullfrog croaks; the finches prattle at the feeder. The kids are still playing together, tied by the ribbon of light, when we notice a revived glow deep within the forgotten house. Ranald goes to check the temps in the fridge-freezer, Lizzy turns on the Disney Channel, Trevor reboots his computer, and I head to my office to check missed e-mail. We scatter in the light, but in my head I can still feel the rhythms of my son's newfound chords, my daughter's shadowy flamenco.
There is no big decision to be made. My life doesn't need changing. But it is extraordinary to realize that this moment, framed in time—not the memories, not the expectations or ambitions—is my life. And in this moment I change tense: stop becoming and just am.
Thelma Adams, Us Weekly's film critic, is working on an essay collection.