March 2020 was a pretty interesting time, to say the least. When the pandemic first struck, we all went about our days as if it was silly common cold that would pass—but by the end of the month, we had to redefine what “normal” meant for us. And not just for us, but our kids. Like many parents, local author Gina J. Lewis was now having to navigate the many changes for herself and her three children. So she did that the best way she knew; she started writing a new book.
“My oldest son was in preschool when things started to shutdown, and March is also when I gave birth to my third,” Gina said. “Everything in life was just crazy out of the blue different for me, and I’m an adult. For my son, who all of a sudden can’t go play with his friends, and can’t go to the grocery store with us—which he considers to be his job—I could see the physical, emotional, and mental changes that he was going through. And even for my babies, they don’t even know how weird this is. They don’t know what socializing is yet. I don’t know when this is all going to end, but I know that my children aren’t the only kids who are being affected by this.”
Gina wrote and illustrated When I See You Again, a children’s book that follows a group of best buddies that can no longer see each other due to the pandemic spread. While part of it focuses on the emotions that many of us are feeling, missing our friends and our normal routines, it also makes note of the some positive outcomes like more family time.
Gina Lewis and her three little ones.
“I wanted to make sure to do two things: to validate any anxieties or worries that kids are feeling, and to highlight the fun things that they might not have been able to do had this period of time not occurred,” Gina said. “You may get to go camping in your backyard, you might get to have blueberry pancakes every morning—you get to do things that you never really got to do because they weren’t in the schedule. I know things are scary, like seeing everyone’s faces covered up with masks, but it’s not all bad.”
As I listen to Gina speak, I know I’ve taken solace is some of the good that this global shutdown has brought, but I’m also only in charge of myself and my dog who’s only reaped the benefits of things being put on pause. I can’t imagine what this journey has been like for the littles out there, and for the parents who are trying to do they best they can—but perhaps this perfectly-timed piece of literature is exactly what your family needs to reassure yourselves that bright days are still here and even brighter days are ahead.
“You may get to go camping in your backyard, you might get to have blueberry pancakes every morning—you get to do things that you never really got to do because they weren’t in the schedule,” Gina said.
While this book marks the first book that Gina wrote and illustrated on her own, her illustrations can be found in Wings by Reggie Jarrell, a children’s book about a young angel who’s lost his wings, which was released at the end of 2019, a much simpler time than now. As she reflects on how much has changed since then and years prior (staying at home with the kids 24/7, not having parental assistance with her newborn as she did with her first two, etc.) she recognizes that both parents and kids will experience some kind of fallout from this period of time—and that’s okay, because it’s not permanent.
“I don’t have a lot that I can do, ” Gina said. “I’m not a great speaker. I’m not a politician. What I am is an artist, and I know how to write words—and I can write what I think I see, and how I think I would feel if I were in a 4-7-year-old’s shoes, and show that. Maybe my gift can just be the gift of validation, showing them that they’re not alone and that this won’t last forever.”