The relationship between Miriam Speyer and Alice Cleland kicked off in foggy San Francisco when Alice was just 2 years old. Miriam was Alice’s nanny, though the word nanny doesn’t quite encompass the bond between them. It was one of those situations that felt more like extended family. Even after Miriam moved to Nashville, she and Alice’s family kept in touch.
Miriam was back in San Francisco for a visit in March of 2020, when the reality of COVID-19 came crashing in. The city issued a shelter-in-place order, and she canceled her return ticket, opting to wait things out with her sister and brother-in-law.
Alice, now 8 years old, was also stuck at home, just a couple blocks from where Miriam was staying. She would breeze through her online schoolwork, easily finishing before noon, and longed to be out playing with her friends. Alice’s parents, working from home, got the brilliant idea that Miriam and Alice could meet outdoors every weekday afternoon for a walk in Golden Gate Park.
The afternoon walks quickly became a became a daily highlight for Miriam and Alice. It was there, among the redwoods, that the two of them first conceived of The Sick-Proof Tunnel. What started out as a simple fantasy — a virus-free tunnel where friends could hang out safely — soon grew to become an elaborate world with multiple themed rooms. As they walked, Alice would describe the rooms in the sick-proof tunnel while Miriam listened, asking occasional questions, and capturing all of it as a voice memo on her phone. Then, back at her sister and brother-in-laws home, Miriam reviewed the voice memos and began to illustrate each room.
Many months later, and after much loving labor, The Sick-Proof Tunnel is now available as a children’s book. May children and adults alike enjoy this colorful, imaginary escape and feel inspired to dream up some rooms of their own!