Finding Alice

What I Can't Help But Say

A few years back our family watched Alone – a History Channel show in which ten survival experts competed by camping solo on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island.  Winter was coming. And indeed, their nights were full of terror.

Safe in our cozy living room we settled in with cocktails before a warm fire. On the glowing flatscreen it was, as sailors say, ‘blowing stink.’ Cold wind ripped tent flaps open. Tree limbs whipped sideways as rain turned to sleet.

The video feed turned to night vision. The exhausted twenty-year-old stared vacantly into his camera and said, “Time to Hunker Down!” Twigs snapped just outside the tent as the silhouette of a bear’s shadow loomed on the wet nylon. The wide-eyed contestant sunk deeper into his down mummy bag and yelled, “HEY BEAR!

And if any contestant said either ‘Hey Bear’ or ‘Hunker Down’ it was our prompt to clink glasses, cheers to each other and drink.

Fast forward to the present: We no longer drink when someone on TV says, ‘Hunker Down.’ Also banished? ‘Social Distancing,’ Unprecedented,’ and ‘Out of An Abundance of Caution.’As small business owners during a pandemic, the rehab expense at Betty Ford or Mountain Vista Farms is simply not in the family budget.

To those who know me it will come as no surprise that during a recent block party Zoom, I told on myself. And for the remainder of the conversation, ‘Hunker Down’ came from every un-muted neighbor on screen. I toasted each for the laugh and by the end of the hour was feeling much better, and yet worse. I believe the correct word for it is maudlin.  

Someone can make me cry simply by asking how I’m doing. When I’m being a drama queen my brother Bob says, “Honey Bun – It isn’t always all about you.” I know that is true. Believe me. I watch way too much news. But whatever you are experiencing at this ‘unprecedented’ time, doesn’t it seem that way?

Scary, right?

When can we hug again? I once hugged complete strangers. Now even my friendly smile is buried beneath a homemade mask. When will it be okay to hold our eldest daughter, Sarah, in my arms? Or hold our granddaughters, Brooke and Grae, on my lap for a story? And when it is finally safe, will those little girls want to be held, or will they be afraid?

For now I don’t know that I have the requisite will power to keep at a safe distance, a “Kangaroo Hop” as Sarah calls it. I considered ordering a hazmat suit from a friend’s safety supply company. But it’s not practical. We need to save them for the front line personnel. Also, if a Santa suit terrorized two-year-old Grae last Christmas, can you imagine the ensuing nightmares from seeing a 60-year-old woman in a face mask and hazmat suit?

So, we FaceTime when Sarah has both a moment and the peace of mind to call. Grae monopolizes the phone. She asks for our younger daughter, her “Aunt Emmie,” her grandpa Si who goes by “Grumpy”, and our dog, “Sugar Bear.” When she realizes it’s just me on the line, Grae drops the phone in a wicker basket and carries me through their house. By now I know every inch of Sarah’s ceiling, Grae’s soft pink cheek and the closeup of one beautiful eye.

Her sister, Brooke, is off screen and doesn’t often participate in a virtual visit. At age four she is often glued to another screen or out back floating wine cork boats on a garden hose mud puddle. She connects with me by texting lines of emojis ranging from winged fairies to steaming poop.

Sarah sent a text last night that Brooke said, “When the Germ is over, I want to go to the zoo.” They have several tourist brochures, once real but now for play – Monterey Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf, cable cars, trains, and out of all of them, Brooke chose the Oakland Zoo.

In pre-Germ time and missing us one Sunday, Sarah brought the girls down from Napa Valley to meet us at the zoo. We sprang into full grandparent “spoil you rotten” mode and bought the girls cotton candy and glowing bubble wands. We rode the new gondola up to see the bears and bison at the California Exhibit. I stood beside Brooke on the carousel while she went up and down on a rainbow-colored pony. The five of us rode in the train’s caboose as it circled the property, glowing wands trailing a bubble stream out the back. Brooke made the height requirement to ride a red firetruck all on her own. It was a perfect day. A treasured memory of a happier time.

When the Germ is over, Brooke, we will do it again. Together.

Drawings by Emily B. Lewis on vintage maps

23 thoughts on “Alone

  1. Jim Lewis says:

    It’s great you’re back to writing for your audience again. I’ve missed you. This is a good one.


    1. Alice Lewis says:

      Figuring out the reply thing. Hope this isn’t a duplicate! Thanks for reading, Jim, and for your kind comment. Inspires me to do it again! : )

  2. Chris Bailey says:

    Ohmygosh! So much love for your writing! Keep it coming. And Clink! Please can we escape bunker down mode?? ❤️

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Renee Sheehan says:

    NIcely done, Alice! Hang in there. We’re all in this together and it won’t last forever…..will it??!

  4. kgfgardener says:

    Thank you. Made me cry, but thanks.

    1. Alice Lewis says:

      Yes! Hit the target! : ) Um I mean… So sorry I made you cry, Kathie. Miss our walks. And I know you empathize with the grandma thing. Hang in there!

  5. Joanie says:

    Thank you, Alice. Glad to have you and your blog back! Beautiful work.

  6. Anne says:

    Oh, Alice. Perfect!! 😍

  7. Andrea Medulan says:

    Alice, I really love your take on this hideous virus and the shelter in place order. I’ve missed your writing and am glad you are documenting this historic event. Andrea

  8. Nancy McKinley says:

    So terribly sad but I can relate. You stated this so beautifully. It was indeed heart felt. Megan needs a hug. Just a few blocks away. She’s expecting in 5 weeks. She’s overwhelmed. Trying to teach to a blank screen, setting up a nursery alone and terrified of having to go into the hospital alone. I cried for you, me and the rest of us…..Looking forward to your future writings.

    1. Alice Lewis says:

      Thank you, Nancy! Please give my love to Megan. I look forward to meeting that new baby when I can!

  9. Luann Choy says:

    I was so happy to see your post on Facebook. I’ll be coming back on again just to read your thoughts. I have missed your writings so much. I hunkered down on my couch and enjoyed every word. Emily’s drawings are beautiful!

  10. Nik Dehejia says:

    The writing is beautiful and the drawings by Emily are worth hanging in a prominent place. Let the germs end. I agree with Brooke.

    1. Alice Lewis says:

      Thanks, Nik! Yes, I am lucky to have an artist on staff. : ) Looking forward to the zoo, and we are going to sign Brooke up for the virtual membership!

  11. TC Currie says:

    It’s so so so good to see you writing again. You have such a delightful voice. I’m looking forward to reading more!

    1. Alice Lewis says:

      Hi TC! Thank you! Means so much, coming from you who have honored your muse. xox

  12. Tori says:

    So glad you’re back to writing. Reading your writing is like getting a virtual hug from you, and I dig it!

    1. Alice Lewis says:

      Virtual hug! Yay!!! Thanks, Tori. Please give real hugs to those boys for me. xox

  13. Dee says:

    Alice, your way of expressing in “Alone” has so much feeling. You bring the reader in! Emily’s drawings are unique as well as fabulous. I look forward to more of your writing❤️

    1. Alice Lewis says:

      Thanks Dee! I will forward your compliment to Em and we will both be inspired to keep it up!

  14. Hi Alice,

    So nice to hear your writing voice again – and what a timely post! I can relate to most everything you’ve said, and yet, each of our experiences is unique, too. Fascinating to be going through the same things, worldwide. Keep writing!

    Loved the visuals, too – how lucky to have a built in artist for your blog posts!

    Have a wonderful weekend,



  15. Rita V. says:

    So glad to see you writing again Alice! I loved your memory of the Zoo outing…reminded me of when my daughter was small. Lovely words, thank you!! Looking forward to seeing more❤❤❤

  16. Kathryn McCarthy says:

    I’ve missed reading you almost as much as I miss YOU!

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