Arts Editor’s Note: Willa Lee’s column is the first in what we hope is a series of commentaries and contributions to The Beachcomber by island youth ages 8 to 17. Do you have a 500 to 700-word story about your life on Vashon during the time of the coronavirus? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Would you like to share a recipe, a poem, or an artwork you have made in the past few months? Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you or your child would like to contribute. Youth should be sure to include their parent or guardian email address and phone number in any correspondence.
By Willa Lee
For The Beachcomber
My name is Willa Lee and I live here on Vashon Island. I moved here from Portland, Oregon and it took me a while to get used to living on an island, but now, I love it! I’m 10 years old, and a fifth-grade student at Chautauqua Elementary.
I fell in love with words when I was six and it stuck. From novels to picture books, reading made me happy, especially the newspaper. My grandpa lives in New York so he gave us a subscription to The New York Times and I read the kids’ section. I started reading the Vashon newspaper and thought that we should have a section for the kids here too.
I thought I’d start by writing about what’s on all of our minds these days: Coronavirus. It’s crazy to think that no one in this world doesn’t know what it is! Masks and gloves are the new style. Everyone is washing their hands and keeping six feet away from each other, even their extended family. When I was younger, I remember hearing stories from my parents about past sicknesses that had no cure, like the Spanish flu, measles, or polio, but I never thought a virus like this would happen in my lifetime. I barely knew what the word “quarantine” meant! Now, I think differently about everything.
In my family, at dinner, we say our Highs and Lows for the day. There are highs and lows about everything, and COVID-19 is no exception.
I’ll start with my lows. First, kids all over the world are having to do school work without a teacher, and that’s one of my biggest lows. I really miss my teacher, Mrs. Browne, and all of my friends at school. It’s also hard to do all of your schoolwork on a device without a teacher there to walk you through it. I worry about falling behind on my work, and it’s hard to know if I’m on the same page as my classmates.
Coronavirus is hard on adults, too.
Parents and workers have lost jobs and are struggling to find new ones. For example, my mom, Ara Lee James, used to tour full-time as a musician, but now she teaches singing lessons from home on FaceTime. My dad, Brian Lee, just finished training to become a firefighter so his life has changed a lot. He’s a part of a study for first responders. He gets his test materials sent to him every month and he sends the blood work back to the people testing it, to try to find a cure.
My friend, Julietta Polo Bunch, said it is tough for her to quarantine with two houses.
“Our schedule changed from two-two, five-five, to a week with my mom, then a week with my dad,” she said.
I know what it feels like to have divorced parents during this time, and it is hard. I’m not even allowed to hug my dad if I’m at my mom’s, and vice-versa. When I asked Letta about what she did when she was home, I wasn’t surprised when she said, “I usually just play on my computer,” because that’s what I’m usually doing too.
Now, of course, not everything about the coronavirus is bad … there are definitely a lot of highs and it’s always good to focus on the positive.
It doesn’t seem like there would be so many good things about staying home, but there are lots!! Third-graders through high schoolers don’t have to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test (yesss), and you can do school work any time of the day. I get to see my parents a lot more and spending a lot of time with my six-year-old sister has been really fun. Getting more time outside is great, even in the rain. I’ve been listening to the trees and the wind. A big high for me is the thought that using our cars less and staying in is making nature’s life cycle continue. There is so much less pollution now, and I hope that all of us understand how important that is for our planet.
There’s a bright side to everything.