Alice Through the Looking Glass
by Christina Franke

Squinting, I try so hard just to let my eyes meet the translucent layer of distorted glass and get a glimpse of what’s waiting on the other side of the peephole. It turns out not to be what, but who is waiting for me on the other side as I turn the cool metal handle and thrust open the door. The gust of wind blows against every strand of hair, and then falls peacefully back into place on the both of our heads. “What’s up honey?” she rolls casually off of her tongue as we greet each other, just like we’ve gotten used to everyday of the past month.
I’ve known Alice Pedersen for just a month, and as close as we’ve become, I never really got to know much about what made her who she is today. As we walk in, color floods the room from left to right. What was once a vanilla room my roommate and I have turned into a relaxing getaway. Our room is the perfect place to feel comfortable having a friendly, yet school oriented, interview, down to the smiling faces of our closest friends in pictures on the wall to the posters of our favorite classic rock bands.
Alice and I have our usual friendly conversation then settle down and get started on the interview. At first she’s reluctant, feeling like I’m giving her a quiz or something just as awkward from friend-to-friend however, after we get to rambling on the first question she’s eager to keep going. I learn how cultured she became starting at the ripe age of five. “Man, my family and I were gypsies when I was little it was crazy,” she explained. She and her family traveled from her birthplace in Annandale, Virginia, across the seas to Poland. For the next eight years they made their way across Europe, visiting places such as Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. After Sweden, the Pedersens made their way back to the states and jumped from Virginia to Minnesota to Texas before finally settling down in Fairfax, Virginia. As she reminisces on all the places she’s been, a smile stretches across her face. The memories please her to think about as she gets more comfortable and flops down onto my bed.
During her younger years as a gypsy, Alice really got to know her family. The experience brought them together, making them the close-knit family they are today. “I think what really caused this bond was our lack of materialism,” she interjected as my fingers tapped the keyboard to remember every word. Alice’s parents started their lives together with nothing but love for each other, and at a very young age she learned how devoted they were to one another. This strong devotion really inspires her, making her want to have the same for herself in the future, especially since her parents are now very successful people and still married after 22 years together. This train of thought causes the conversation to stray. Alice and I get into a conversation about relationships and life in general. Every conversation seems to contain a smile and laughing till our stomachs hurt. At the point of laughing so hard it hurts, we decide to get back to what we were doing and continue with some questions.
Traveling from place to place really changed Alice. The experience of seeing the world while still being so young really cultured her. The average person might feel like moving from place to place for eight years with your family is something you’re obligated to do because you don’t know any better “Instead, I really viewed it as an opportunity. Not everyone can say that they saw the world before reaching their teenage years,” she enlightened me.
Regardless how different her childhood may have been from myself or anyone else, Alice still got to be a normal kid and enjoy regular childlike things. She went through a few babysitters; some were liked more than others. For instance there was a time when Alice was six and her babysitter had her boyfriend over. Alice felt weird being around the couple, and went outside to roller-skate all alone. When you’re little, doing something so small by yourself can make you feel like one of the big kids, until something unfortunate happens. As far as Alice was concerned, she got to skate around for a while but the fun came to a halt when she fell over a crack in the sidewalk. Every kid experiences skinned knees and elbows, but Alice also knocked out her two front teeth. That’s when her smile started to fade and she cried out, “It was really bad no one was there to help me. I just sat and cried alone on the sidewalk.” Needless to say, she never had to be around that babysitter and her boyfriend again. As Alice is telling me this story I can hear the innocence in her voice and the look of helplessness in her eyes as she relives the moment from her childhood. The sadness is short-lived and quickly replaced with a 100-watt smile as she chuckles at the thought of how silly it the whole thing sounds now.
The next question really brings a grin to her face, and before she can finish her answer we’re both laughing hysterically with tears in our eyes and our hands clutching the sore muscles in our stomachs. Every kid has a crazy idea of what they think they want to be when they grow up. Some kids want to be astronauts; others want to be cowboys or princesses, but not Alice. As a toddler she dreamed of being a paper-maker. It sounds just a little crazy, but that’s Alice, the future paper-maker extraordinaire. The following ten minutes of our conversation is full of jokes and more laughter. The thought of seeing her in her old age, creating her own paper and paper products was hilarious to us. Once again we hold our stomachs and dry our tearing eyes and try to relax. Finally she reassures me, “Nahh, as much as I’d love to make paper for a living, I think I’ll go for a more run of the mill kind of job.” She now aspires to own real estate or become a stockbroker. This sounds more reasonable, I don’t know of any papermaking classes at Johnson & Wales University anyway.
Throughout our interview, our smiles hardly faded. As I scrolled to the “Save As” option on my computer, she stood up and reached for her shoes and purse. Slowly getting up, I noticed that Alice and I had made a serious school assignment into an hour filled with laugher and excitement. We passed through the doorway and right by the familiar peephole, back into the world.
Alice feels like her experiences make her who she is today; the quirky, fun-loving blonde we all know and love. She feels like there is nothing from her life that she regrets because the past really molds you into who you are for the future. If it weren’t for being a gypsy, skinning her knees on the pavement, or aspiring to be a paper-maker, Alice could be a completely different person today.