What I Did

So, what did I end up doing with all that free time?

I actually surprised myself. I thought I would need to be out and about a lot because otherwise I would get bored, blue, and lonesome. But, and this is the surprise, I ended up not really wanting to go anywhere. Aren’t you shocked? All I wanted to do was park my butt by the fire and write. Am I not boring?

My days fell into a pattern: wake up, lay in bed for a little while and make lists or read, pad downstairs, turn on the Christmas tree lights and radio, light candles, make coffee, and haul the computer into the living room to write for the rest of the morning, taking breaks only to feed animals and hang up laundry. Around about eleven o’clock or so I went out for a walk, got a shower, and then headed into town—one afternoon I had coffee with our pastor, and another afternoon I helped a friend start a blog. (I also picked up a bunch of books from the library, browsed a thrift store, and bought laundry detergent at Dollar General.) I picked up Chinese takeout on my way out of town, trying to get home while it was still light out so I had time to bring in wood for the fire and batten down the hatches before the dark overtook and all the scary creatures came to life.

Of course evenings were the worst, no surprises there. Once the sun sank below the hills, my nerves became ultra-sensitized. I managed okay, as in I did not hurl myself into the car and zip into town to camp out on a friend’s sofa, but it took mental feats of super-human strength to steer my mind away from fixating on all things spine-tingling and breath-zapping. I usually ended up talking on the phone, writing a bit more, and then heading up to bed with a bowl of popcorn to watch a movie: the first night it was Corrina, Corrina, the second night it was Dirty Dancing, and the third night it was The Preacher’s Wife, all certifiably non-scary movies (I first researched them on Wikipedia). As soon as the movies ended, I switched on the noise machine and slept with my head right next to it. If robbers were going to break into my house, I sure didn’t want to hear them.

And that’s about it. Oh yeah, except I forgot the part about nearly burning the house down. That, “burning the house down”, might be a bit of an exaggeration, but there is a chance it could’ve happened, I suppose, if I hadn’t discovered the problem in time. Here’s the tale, which I will now happily tell you—“happily” because I emerged unscathed.

Saturday night, about 7:30 or so, pre run-upstairs-and-watch-a-movie, I was curled up on the sofa reading Eat, Pray, Love (of which there is an excellent, I think, review here; I say “I think” because I haven’t finished the book yet, but I have a hunch that Kate, my future cousin-in-law, is on to something) in front of the fire. Two votive candles were burning on the kitchen table, and one big candle (it smells like pancake syrup) was burning on the diningroom table. This, the candles burning, is totally normal for me—I am forever burning candles—I buy them in bulk.

It was then that I noticed a burning smell. A chemically burning smell. My scalp shivered, and I’m pretty sure that the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I plopped the book down, trying my best to act casual and in control. What? Something’s burning? No big deal. Just show me the problem and I’ll take care of it. I peered closely at the diningroom table’s candle. It looked fine; I sniffed it, and it smelled just like pancakes and syrup.

I calmly proceeded a couple more steps over to the kitchen table, and there my stomach thudded. The votive candles had both burned out, but the one votive was totally black. What does this mean? Am I okay? Do I call 911 now? I tried to pick it up, but it was stuck to the table, and, oh no!, the table was black, too. I got a hot pad and pried up the votive. There, underneath where the votive had been, was a perfect-circle burn mark. I laid my hand on it—it, and the surrounding table, were hot, hot to the touch. I stooped and peered under the table, just to make sure the charring hadn’t seeped through. I stood back up quickly, shocked at what I had just done (looking under tables is not what scaredy-cats are supposed to do), relieved that there weren’t any snakes curled up in the upside-down table corners.

I set the hot votive on a towel on the counter (I didn’t want to set it directly on the concrete counter because I was afraid the cold might cause the piping hot votive to shatter, which would’ve most certainly been more than my fragile nerves could handle), wetted a washcloth and laid it over the crispy circle in the tabletop. Then I serenely walked back to the sofa.

After about fifteen more minutes (in which I tried valiantly to focus on what I was reading and not on an escape plan for later that night when I might find myself trapped in my room, house aflame), I checked the table again; it was still warm, but not hot, so I turned off some of the lights (not all) and went upstairs to wait for daylight to come.

The other bad thing that happened was that I tried to stuff a too-big log into the burning woodstove (this was the night before the burned-table incident) and then had to carry the partially lit and smoldering (ie, smoking—please, fire alarms, please, do not go off, please) log out of the house and lay it on the concrete porch, douse it with water, let it set for awhile, and then stick it in a five-gallon plastic bucket before I went upstairs to bed, just to make sure that if a wind blew up, it wouldn’t be able to fan any non-doused sparks into flames and blow them up against the house. Precautions, precautions.

And the other bad thing was that I had a nightmare one night and so I woke up and then couldn’t go back to sleep for awhile. I huddled by my dear noise machine and tried to think of scriptures to recite, but, alas, alack, I couldn’t come up with any. Somehow it never occurred to me to recite the words from hymns…

So, there’s the story of my jackpot weekend, all the ups and downs. There were more ups than downs, definitely. I learned that I can live by myself, and that it’s actually a lot of fun, more fun than I thought it would be. I also learned that I much prefer to have people with me at night. But then, that was no surprise—I knew that all along.


  • Anonymous

    Well. I must be of the same orchard, because I can totally relate. I love having my family gone during the day, but would much rather have nighttime companionship. We apples have vivid imaginations, we do.


  • current typist

    Once I watched Arlington Road with some friends who then went home leaving me by myself and in the middle of the night I got up to use the bathroom still scared out of my wits and accidentally pushed a glass off the counter and it shattered on the floor and I was terrified once again.

  • Anonymous

    Aaggh–a plastic bucket. Melted-down-polyethylene fumes seeping through your house holes and wisping up the stairs. Your family coming home and finding you stark-stiff dead in your bed next to the noise machine.

    Anyhow, I’m glad they’re back home.


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