So with two gainfully employed adolescents, a few nights a week I find myself in a peculiar position.
I am, for the first time in 17 years, consistently and completely alone in my house.
And I don’t know what to do.
I mean, I have an hour and 45 minutes to myself.
An hour and 45 minutes!
Yeah. I just don’t know what to do.
Once, my husband was home with me. But now it’s autumn. He’s off in the yonder, hunting, gone until Christmas. I haven’t seen him in days, even though as I write this it is our wedding anniversary.
I’m not sure we’re still married. I’m not even sure he’s still alive. And I won’t be, until December brings him home on a jolly wave of candy canes and twinkling lights.
Ha. Jolly wave. That’s funny because he’s not jolly. He’s like Ebenezer Scrooge and George Bailey had a baby that grew up into a curmudgeonly Brawny Paper Towel Man.
And let me tell you something — grumpy outdoorsy guys? If there is a more perfect man than a crabby Paul Bunyan, show me.
Anyway, it’s a good thing he’s not around. We are this close to an empty nest. If he was home for any more of these childless evenings, I might be writing this same story in another 17 years.
If you know what I mean.
I tried spending one of these solo evenings with a movie. A movie! Who has time for a late-afternoon, weekday movie when you’re raising kids? Is this what it feels like to have a nanny? Who am I, Captain von Trapp? Is Julie Andrews teaching my kids to sing somewhere?
A movie! I watched a movie! And do you know what happened?!
It was a disaster. Don’t watch The Changeling alone. The after-school cacophony of homework and dinner had, for years, drowned out the sounds particular to our house. I’d lost track of them.
So when the house moaned and sighed as I watched my ghost story, I couldn’t convince myself the clamor was just settling wood and drywall.
Because the noise sounded more like poltergeists and demons.
So no ghost stories alone in the house.
Next, I tried watching Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix. But Unsolved Mysteries should only be watched when your family is in your direct line of vision because how else can you be sure they weren’t abducted by aliens or kidnapped by nefarious neighbors? I mean, be reasonable.
Now I just put on the news. That way, I know the sirens I hear aren’t headed to my kids’ employers.
What did I do, seventeen years ago, when I wasn’t a parent? What did I do twenty years ago, when I wasn’t married?
Does it even matter? I’m not that girl anymore. That girl became me, like the green leaves outside my window have now become red. Expectations for me now are not the expectations for me two decades ago. I mean, you see that green leaf and think, “Spring!”
You see that red leaf and think, “It will dry up and fall soon and die on my lawn and I’ll have to pick it up.”
I am that red leaf. All dry and crusty and nobody wants to pick me up.
Which is why I hope I’m still married.
Now I’m rethinking this whole story. Sharing it, I mean. What if people read it and decide to invite me places? I don’t want to go out, and I really don’t want to go out with people. You know what? I’m fine guys. Really.
I know those footsteps I hear upstairs in an empty house don’t belong to a spectral child! Come on!
And yes – I’m good with Unsolved Mysteries. I mean, Robert Stack all day, right? I know my kids are safely at work and not disappearing without a trace in front of twenty witnesses! Come on! Who thinks that?!
Yeah, go ahead. Leave me alone with just my thoughts. That seems like a good idea.
The last time I was alone like this, I discovered, one evening, that I was out of Chef Boyardee ravioli. I was living alone and most definitely had not eaten all of the Chef Boyardee ravioli. Which led me to just one conclusion.
A thief had broken in. He had broken in and left the computer and the TV and my Walkman and VCR. But he took that ravioli, the greedy hooligan. He broke in and took my ravioli and left me hungry and alone and –
And you know what? I think I need some company.
Just don’t stay too long.
And don’t touch my ravioli.