There’s no one here but me

It’s sunny but cold enough to see our breath. I stand behind my two children as we wait for the school bus, and I watch them puff steam from their mouths into the bright air, their towheads thrown back and their lips like funnels. Their backpacks are identical except for the colors. They chose them independently of each other and then delighted in their jinxing.

Every morning we wake up, get dressed, I make breakfast and lunches, tucking in notes written on napkins, and I try to listen to their cheerful chatter before I’ve even had a cup of coffee. We have exactly forty-seven minutes from the time the alarm goes off until we start crunching gravel on our walk down the driveway.

The bus drives by before turning around at the dead end to come back for us, so we have about a minute for final hugs and parting exhortations. When it arrives they stride boldly to the doors and climb the tall steps and find a seat together by the window so they can wave and blow kisses. The bus pulls away and within seconds I can’t see them anymore.

And then they’re gone.

And I’m left here with only myself.

When we made the decision to send the kids to school instead of homeschooling them, my introverted, stimulus-sensitive, deep-thinking self daydreamed about the space I would have: the long, quiet stretches of time to finish a train of thought, write creatively, and study uninterrupted. And I do have that. These precious daylight hours are luxurious, and I don’t take them for granted.

But I am surprised by how quickly the time goes. If I’m not careful, the entire day slips through my fingers. For the first week I walked around my empty house stunned by the silence. I floated through loads of laundry, meal prep, and Netflix, never really formulating a plan. I thought having more time to myself would be a panacea for my solitude-starved soul, but ultimately, even though I got what I wanted, I’m still faced with the reality of my own shortcomings. There’s no one here but me. No excuses. No distractions. No one to blame for procrastination but myself.

It’s daunting. And exciting.

The fall term started last week, and my two courses are demanding. I now know the Hebrew alphabet, and today I listen as a man with a deep, wonderful voice reads the Psalms while I make the season’s first batch of my mom’s famous pumpkin chocolate chip cookies to take to class. I like what I’m studying, and I’m figuring out how to use my time. No more wandering around the house, and no time for Netflix, but my days are full of goodness.

I won’t see the kids when they get off the bus today—I’ll be on my way to class—but there’s a surprise for them in the kitchen.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3 sticks of real butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 6 beaten eggs
  • 1 large 29 oz can of pumpkin
  • 3 cups of white unbleached flour
  • 3 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup of baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon of ginger
  • 6 cups of semisweet chocolate chips (3 12 oz. bags)

Cream butter, add sugar, and mix until light and fluffy. Add eggs and pumpkin; mix well. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together, add to wet ingredients, and mix well. Add chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonful on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes.

Rachel Womelsduff Gough and her family ditched the city for a patch of earth in the Snoqualmie Valley. Cheered on by her husband and two blonde babes, Rachel learns by getting her hands dirty, whether it’s gardening, chicken farming, neighboring, or adventuring with soulmates in wild places. She is a Master of Divinity student at Fuller Theological Seminary, and she can’t live without books, coffee, and mountains.

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