And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Like many, if not most, people, I’ve had some problems dealing with this whole pandemic thing. There is the frustration of limited movement, limited resources, limited interactions. But ultimately, there’s the fear. Will I get it? Will my family get it? And for me, there’s an addition: How will this affect my small business, AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop. The fear also centers around my having at least four of the “risk factors”: I’m soon to be sixty, I have asthma, I’m in treatment for breast cancer, and I have high blood pressure. I feel like a walking target, if the COVID bugs zoom anywhere near me.

All of this began manifesting itself in insomnia, in feelings of panic, and ultimately, sleepwalking, which I haven’t done in years. This morning, I woke up as I was attempting to pull back the covers and climb out of bed to go who knows where. I was only thwarted by my cat, who was laying on top of my covers and making it difficult to get out. The struggle woke me. I guess I should thank her.

But I am getting some stress relief now, and it came in the strangest way. When I first mentioned the sleepwalking on Facebook, my son Andy’s friend, Rayne, who has been a part of our lives since they were in high school together, and who I consider a part of my family, messaged me and said I needed to start playing Animal Crossing, a video game. Andy, an avid gamer, took up the call.

So you have to understand – Animal Crossing is the only video game that has ever seduced me. A game called Harvest Moon came close to having the same impact, but Animal Crossing is IT in my book. Years ago, I bought myself my own Nintendo Game Cube system to just play that game. I bought myself a Nintendo Gameboy DS to play that game. And now…well, there is a new Animal Crossing out. For the Nintendo Switch, a system I don’t have and never wanted. I drooled, but said, “No. I’m not going to pay for a new system now, when I don’t know how my business is going to fare with COVID-19.”

Later that same day, I was going through an old photo album of my mother’s. My mom passed several years ago, and my brother has been going through her extensive photo albums, dating back to when she met and married my father. My brother went through them and took what he wanted, and right before the virus got serious, I went to his house, collected the albums, and started to go through them on my own. I found an article that I’d written for Wisconsin Magazine, a part of the Milwaukee Journal’s Sunday edition years ago. This article was published in June of 1992. It was about my decision to allow my kids to have the original Nintendo game system. And about how my then-husband and I decided to limit their playing time, at first to keep them from overdoing it…but after awhile, it became so we would have time ourselves to play!  There’s a picture of us in front of the system, and smack dab in the front is my son, Andy. And this boy, at six years old, is quoted as saying, “I think kids only get to play Nintendo for an hour, but big people get to play all they want.”

Smart, smart kid. He was right.

The article in Wisconsin Magazine, 6/14/1992.
Photo from article. From left, me, then my son Christopher on top, my son Andy on the bottom, then my ex-husband, then my daughter Katie. The kids were 8, 6 and 4.

So now, when I said no, he took matters into his own hands for his mother. He had to search to find one, but he did, and he bought me a Nintendo Switch. When it arrived, he set it up.

And suddenly, there I was. In charge of my own desert island. I’ve already gone from a tent to my first house, which is decorated sparsely, but it’s getting there. I have a pet seahorse and a pet hermit crab. I go fishing, I catch things in nets, I shake trees for treasure and sometimes get stung by bees. I helped establish the island’s museum. I talk to other island folks, a set of three raccoons who run the store and who gave me my mortgage on my house, and also a purple kangaroo who says “Boing!” a lot, and the world’s ugliest squirrel who likes to work out. This afternoon, I traveled to a mysterious island, where I invited a sheep named Vesta to be my  neighbor. She said she will.

I know. The whole thing sounds nonsensical. And you know what? It is. When I sink into this game, I’m not trapped in my house, but I’m on an island where I can control certain things (not getting stung by bees, apparently). The creatures are happy. I’m not worried. I even planted a money tree. It’s different even from writing fiction, because when I do that, there is always the undertow of concern: Am I writing well? Will readers like this? Is this the best I can do? Playing Animal Crossing, who cares? It only matters to me.

And my stress level? Way, way, way down.

Smart, smart kid, this Andy. And Rayne too. I love them both.

And yes, that helps. Despite Anyway.

That’s me, on my island in Animal Crossing!

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