Driving home tonight I found my mind drifting to places it hasn't been in years. I wondered where the closest cemetery might be, not for any morbid reason, but because when I had more time to myself walking in cemeteries was one of the things I enjoyed doing. I would usually seek out the oldest graves in the place, looking for dates that indicated a child, or groups of stones dedicated to a family, imagining their lives, their stories.
The reason I thought about this tonight was that for the first time in a long time I found myself unexpectedly childless.
When Matilda was less than a year old my friend Kehr and I began swapping kids with the result that now - more than five years later - our kids are practically siblings, and so in addition to Matilda sleeping out tonight, Freya has embarked on her very first sleepover at the tender age of three, Steve is at work, and I am sitting home alone waiting for the phone to ring.
I don't know what to do with myself. I ate dinner with my parents (who were disappointed when I arrived sans-grandchildren) and had a drink at the restaurant where Steve works on the weekends.
It feels wrong to be sitting home doing the same things I always do, but I can't remember how to be alone - really alone.
I used to do it all the time - before I had a family and children of my own. I loved it, sought it out. When I was eighteen I spent a few months in London and loved just walking around the streets alone at night, watching people, exploring. I don't do that anymore.
I could. Steve's home most nights and once the girls are settled it would be easy enough to take a stroll along the train tracks or sit out on the roof of the shed and listen to the night. It's just not me anymore, and I don't miss it, not really.
And yet, upon finding myself suddenly alone, it is still the very first thing that occurs to me.