It was a beautiful summer morning and especially relaxing because it was a Saturday. Katie’s moms were home, enjoying a leisurely breakfast rather than rushing to get ready to go to work.
Katie finished up her egg and spread jam on her last delicious bite of toast. Maybe she’d have another piece, she thought. She popped a slice of bread into the toaster and looked in to watch the bread heat up and turn brown and crunchy. But just as the coils were beginning to glow orange, they grew dim again.
“Hey, the toaster’s not toasting!”
“That’s not all, Katiekid,” MomLee said. “The air conditioning just stopped. Hear that silence?”
Katie listened for the usual friendly hum the air conditioner made on hot summer days like today, but she didn’t hear anything.
“Let’s try the ceiling light and fan,” suggested MomAnna. She switched it on, but nothing happened.
“And look,” Katie pointed, “the clock on the microwave’s out, too.”
“Looks like we’ve got a power outage,” said MomAnna. “I’ll call the electric company.”
Katie took the slice of bread out of the toaster and spread some jam on it. “It’s weird that nothing works,” she said. “What do you do in a power outage, anyway?”
“You’re doing it now, Katie,” MomLee smiled. “You couldn’t have toast, so you’re eating bread. In a power outage, you have to adjust to doing without electricity.”
Katie’s eyes got big. “For how long?”
“Not too long, Katie. The electric company will work to get things going again soon. Probably the power will be on later today.”
“Or tomorrow,” MomAnna told them as she closed her cell phone. “The electric company says they’re doing their best to fix the problem. But they say the power may not be back on until tomorrow morning.”
“A day without electricity! Think we can make it that long?” MomLee asked.
MomAnna laughed. “We’ll do all right. The thing that worries me, though, is the weather forecast. It’s supposed to be very hot today, with a high of 95 degrees. Without air conditioning or fans, it’ll be pretty uncomfortable in here.”
“We’ll wear our swimsuits and pretend we’re at the beach!” Katie suggested. Everyone laughed.
“Well, then, let’s get started on adjusting to our non-electric day,” said MomLee. “Help me with the dishes, Katie. We’ll dry them by hand.” Katie started to clear the table.
“And I’m going to pull some weeds in the garden before it gets really hot,” said MomAnna. “Katie, would you take a few tomatoes to Professor Jackson? She’s leaving for Africa tomorrow, and I thought she might like to enjoy some before she leaves. She’ll be teaching in Ghana for a year, you know, so it’ll be a long time before she’ll have homegrown tomatoes again.”
“Sure, MomAnna,” said Katie. “I’ll ride my bike over there right after I finish with the dishes.”
Professor Jackson, or “PJ” as all the Maple Street kids loved to call her, was one of Katie’s favorite neighbors. Whenever PJ traveled far away, which was pretty often, she always had the coolest stories to share. And she gave out the best treats at Halloween, too.
MomLee washed the dishes, and Katie dried them and put them back in the cabinets carefully. Then Katie picked three of the reddest, ripest tomatoes she could find in the garden. Gently she placed them in the basket of her bike and headed to Professor Jackson’s house.
As she pedaled down Maple Street, Katie was surprised to see so many kids on the sidewalks and their front yards. Then she remembered—no Saturday morning cartoons!
“Everyone’s adjusting,” Katie thought to herself.
And they seemed to have a great time doing it. Five-year-old Seth waved happily to her as he zoomed by on his tricycle. David and Thea were shooting hoops with their dads. Another group of kids jumped rope, while others were skateboarding.
Katie pulled up to a blue and white house with a big porch. Professor Jackson was sitting in her porch swing, writing in a notebook. She smiled and waved when she saw Katie.
“Good morning, PJ!” Katie called. She bounded up the front steps. “These are for you,” she said, offering the tomatoes. “We hope you enjoy them.”
“Why, thank you, Katie,” said Professor Jackson, closing her notebook. “It will be a good while before I’ll taste a real Maple Street tomato again. I’m very grateful. Please thank your moms for thinking of me.”
“You’re welcome,” replied Katie. “We’ll miss you, PJ.”
“And I’ll miss you, Katie. But I’ll stay in touch. I’ll send you the link to my blog, and I’ll email, too. I love to share stories and pictures with you.”
“Send lots of photos!” Katie pleaded.
“I will.” Professor Jackson smiled. “In fact, there are some photos I’d like to share with you now. They’re pictures of Maple Street that my great-grandfather took about a hundred years ago. You can see how the whole neighborhood looked back then.”
“That’s so cool, PJ! Can I see them right now?” Katie asked.
“Well, that’s the difficulty,” Professor Jackson sighed. “They’re slides, and of course my slide projector can’t work without electricity. I found them just yesterday, when I was clearing things away in the attic. I told Ms. Alvarez at the Maple Street Library that I had slides showing our street a hundred years ago, and she said we could invite the whole neighborhood and have a presentation in the community room today. But of course that’s canceled now because of the power outage.”
“Oh, why did we have to have a power outage today?” Katie frowned. “I want to see those pictures! Can’t we do something?” she asked.
“I’ll tell you what I’m doing,” Professor Jackson said, with just a hint of a smile. “I’m all ready with my slides and notes. I’m all ready to talk about what my grandparents and great-grandparents told me about Maple Street when they were young. I haven’t given up. Because one thing I’ve learned from living on Maple Street, if something is worth doing, we’ll find a way to do it, no matter what.”
As Katie pedaled farther down Maple Street, she kept thinking about what her neighborhood looked like a hundred years ago and how much she wanted to see the photos for herself. She was about to turn around and go home when she saw something that made her stop suddenly. The store on the corner, Thompson’s Hardware, was open, and the lights were on.
Katie opened the door to the hardware store, heard the bell tinkle, and felt a wonderful coolness. Mr. Thompson was coming out of the backroom carrying a large case of batteries.
“Mr. Thompson!” Katie called. “Is the power back on?”
“Afraid not, Katie,” Mr. Thompson said. “Looks like it’s going to be tomorrow before we have electricity.” He added the case to the stacks of supplies by the register. “People have been coming in all day for batteries and flashlights.”
“But your lights are on, Mr. Thompson,” Katie pointed out. “And you have air conditioning, too! How did you get electricity?”
“That’s my generator, Katie,” Mr. Thompson explained. “I have a power generator so I can stay open on days like this. People depend on the hardware store in an emergency. I have to stay open so people can get batteries and flashlights and other supplies they need.”
Katie thought for a minute. “Mr. Thompson,” she said slowly, “it’s great that your store is open. We depend on your hardware store, especially in an emergency like this.” She took a deep breath. “But we depend on the Maple Street Library, too. And it’s closed today because the electricity’s off. And Professor Jackson can’t show us her slides that show how Maple Street looked a hundred years ago.”
He looked surprised. “Professor Jackson has pictures of Maple Street from that far back? I’d like to see them.”
“So would I. And Professor Jackson wants us to see them, too. She can show them at the library, but it’s got to be today, because she’s leaving for Ghana tomorrow,” Katie told him.
Then Katie remembered what Professor Jackson had said about Maple Street. She smiled at Mr. Thompson and said, “I’m sure there’s a way we can do it. On Maple Street, if something is worth doing, we’ll find a way to do it, no matter what. Isn’t that right, Mr. Thompson?”
Mr. Thompson looked straight at her. “You’re certainly right,” he said. Then he turned and walked quickly toward the back room. Over his shoulder he called, “I’ve got some work to do now. See you later, Katie!”
It was already hot as Katie rode home for lunch, and she sped up on her bike so that the breeze would cool her face. She put her bike in the garage and saw that her moms had arranged a picnic lunch under the trees in the backyard.
“It’s pretty hot inside,” MomAnna told her. “Come sit down here and have some fruit and cheese.”
Katie sat cross-legged on the picnic blanket and pulled some juicy red grapes from the bunch.
MomLee handed her a cup of juice. “There’s some exciting news.”
“There is?” asked Katie, her mouth full of grapes. “What is it?”
“Ms. Alvarez from the library just called and said Professor Jackson is going to show some very old photos of Maple Street this afternoon, at one o’clock,” MomLee told her. “She said you’d know something about it. She’s asking everyone to spread the word.”
“Woo-hoo!” cheered Katie, throwing her arms in the air. “Can we go knock on doors now?”
The moms laughed. “We’ve phoned most of the neighbors already, and everyone’s excited,” said MomAnna. “I think there’ll be a good crowd there.”
And there really was a crowd walking to the library that afternoon. Katie spotted David and Thea and their dads, Seth and his parents, and all the kids who’d been jumping rope and skateboarding, too. She saw Mr. Thompson headed to the library from his store.
They all gathered in the community room at the library just before one o’clock. Up front Ms. Alvarez turned on a tall fan that gave a very welcome light breeze to the room. Professor Jackson was there, too, loading the slides in her projector. When she saw Katie and her moms, she smiled and waved to them.
“How did they get power?” Katie asked MomAnna. “Did Ms. Alvarez tell you?”
“She didn’t say anything about it,” MomAnna replied. “But I think—oh, look—they’re going to begin now.”
Ms. Alvarez put up her hand for quiet. “Thank you, everyone, for coming to see how Maple Street looked a hundred years ago. I’m very proud to introduce our neighbor, Professor Cornelia Jackson, who’ll be sharing her family’s photos with us today. As you know, Professor Jackson teaches at the university, and tomorrow she’ll be leaving to teach at the University of Ghana for a year. Let’s all welcome her.” The adults all clapped, and the kids called out “Yay, PJ!” Professor Jackson waved to the audience from her position next to the slide projector.
“I could give a very long, fancy speech, I suppose,” Professor Jackson began. “But instead, I think I’m just going to let these photos speak to you. My great-grandfather took most of these photos around 1910, so it’s a very different world you’ll be seeing. And yet you’ll also see much you recognize, because Maple Street is our home and some things never change. So if you have something to say, just call out. And ask any questions that come to you. We’re all neighbors here.”
Professor Jackson turned on the slide projector. Suddenly on the screen in the front of the room, Katie saw PJ’s house. It looked just about the same, down to the swing on the porch. But the next photo, showing the view from PJ’s porch, made everyone gasp. There, right on Maple Street, was a horse and cart, and a man carrying a big block of ice toward the house.
“That’s how they kept food cool before refrigerators,” explained Professor Jackson. “We could have used some of that ice today!”
Next was a photo of boys and girls playing on the sidewalks. Some were jumping rope, and others were roller-skating. Katie smiled when she heard the kids in the audience telling their parents that they’d done that, too, today.
“And this must have been the first place you could shoot hoops on Maple Street,” Professor Jackson said, showing a broken basket nailed to a post.
David and Thea and their dads cheered.
Maple Street looked so strange and yet so familiar. The houses, the trees, the street, even Thompson’s Hardware, were all there—different but still the same, somehow. Katie loved all the photos, and she was really disappointed when PJ said, “Now, this is the last one.” But when she saw that last photo, her disappointment changed to amazement.
It was Katie’s house. Even though the photo was from 1910, Katie could recognize the big porch and the brick steps and the tiny round window in the attic. And on the sidewalk, right in front of her house, was a girl standing by a bicycle.
“Hey,” called out five-year-old Seth. “That looks like my friend Katie!”
On either side of Katie, her moms both squeezed her arms in excitement. They all turned to grin at each other in the dark. That girl really did look like Katie!
That was the end of the presentation. Everyone applauded, and Ms. Alvarez thanked Professor Jackson. And Ms. Alvarez said she had another person to thank, too.
“Because of the power outage, we were going to have to cancel Professor Jackson’s presentation. But a generous neighbor gave the library a generator. So now the Maple Street Library has electricity, no matter what. Please stand so we can all thank you, Mr. Thompson!”
When Mr. Thompson stood, everyone clapped and cheered. He shook hands with Ms. Alvarez and Professor Jackson, and then waved to the audience.
“My family has lived here for many years,” Mr. Thompson said. “And I’m proud to be part of a wonderful community with such a great past. But a community is only as great as its young people. So I would like to thank a young neighbor for reminding me that on Maple Street, if something is worth doing, we’ll find a way to do it, no matter what. Katie, will you stand up and let us thank you?”
Everyone cheered, and Katie stood, wide-eyed and astonished. Her moms were looking up at her so proudly, and PJ was smiling so happily, she thought she might burst right there. She was hoping she didn’t have to make a speech, when suddenly the lights went on and the air conditioning whooshed back into life.
“We’ve got the power back!” Katie shouted.
“Thanks to you, Katie,” said Professor Jackson, “we never lost it!”