Alice in Wonderland (a.k.a. Albuquerque)

“Where’s Alice?”

That’s the question my wife asked me in a panic as we drove along Route 40 out of Albuquerque on our way home from an extended holiday vacation in Colorado. The Alice to whom she was referring was an “Alice in Wonderland” doll that nestled tightly in our daughter’s arms each night before her restless movements managed to release it from her clutches to the foot of the bed or, alas, the floor. For Christmas, said daughter had received dolls from the movie “Frozen,” which were currently occupying her time and which went a long way toward explaining her recent carelessness with Alice.

“How should I know?” I said.

My ignorance made me culpable, apparently, and it was decided by all the females in the vehicle that I must have let Alice fall out of the car while I was packing it BY MYSELF. I denied these accusations as the frantic car search continued, pointing out the many times I had saved babies—our daughters call their dolls babies—from tragic asphalt fates. I always search the perimeter of the vehicle for abandoned babies. Always. IT’S WHAT I DO.

The situation had reached emergency status. We had to call the hotel where we stayed the previous night, an awkward endeavor since I had just, in like the last 20 minutes, spoken to the manager there about the sleepless night we had endured on account of our loud and rude hotel room neighbors. The manager had comped our stay, and now we had to call back and exhaust that good will to alert all staff to be on the lookout for a doll from a really weird movie (which is also maybe a book or something, who knows).

Despite my profession of innocence, my wife was convinced Alice was dying a slow death in an Albuquerque hotel parking lot, and that is where she asked hotel staff to look.

But they found nothing.

We were about two hours from Phoenix when the light went on in my wife’s head that Alice had remained behind in the hotel bed. This was a revelation only to her, however, as I had asked repeatedly for confirmation while clearing out the hotel room that monkey was the only baby our daughter had cuddled that night. (Conversations like, “Are you sure monkey was the only baby she cuddled?” are totally normal when you’re a parent.) Of course, this did not mean my wife was at fault—never—but rather the stress of getting ready to leave was to blame, a stress to which I had added, apparently, so … my fault.

It should be mentioned that our daughter was barely concerned. Again, she had her “Frozen” babies, so she was straight. My wife, however, began tearing up as she described a scenario where Alice, poor Alice, was left abandoned, alone, bereft of a child’s love. When I was 24 I refused to cry at my grandmother’s funeral because I thought it would make me look soft, and here I was 11 years later on the verge of tears pondering the fate of an inanimate object. I honestly don’t know what’s happened to me.

When we arrived home I called the hotel back and left a message that was not returned. Undeterred, I called the next day and explained to the front desk what happened. I listened as the desk clerk, in an attempt to inform the head housekeeper of the situation, tried to say “Alice in Wonderland” in Spanish. Someone would call me back if they found anything.

My wife and I had mutually decided that it would be okay if one of the maids had adopted Alice for her daughter or granddaughter, and that was the exact scenario we conjured up in the event she went unfound. However, 10 minutes after I hung up with the desk clerk I received a call.

They found Alice. Or, as it was more accurately relayed to me, “Es Kenny? Si, we uh … how you say, has a doll, no?”

Overjoyed, I relayed to the head housekeeper my credit card number—this took 10 minutes—so Alice could be mailed back. Before hanging up, I said to the housekeeper, “And tell Alice I said, ‘I don’t care how you get here, just get here if you can,’” and she responded with deafening silence.

It’s apropos that the pleasant surprise of having our room comped was somewhat offset by a charge to return a stuffed doll. But the important thing is that Alice is back safe, snuggled tightly in loving arms.

Those would be my arms. Our daughter couldn’t care less.

Note: This column appears in the 1/23 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/24 issue of the Peoria Times.