Pass the Mead, Please

If you’ve never heard of mead, it’s an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey.

People used to drink the stuff from tankards in places that were accurately called MEAD HALLS.

Think Canterbury Tales. And Camelot. Mead halls were happening in Ye Olde Times.

But we’re in COVID 19 times now.

And I’m getting ahead of myself.


Like most college students, my kids were sent home in March to finish classes virtually. When their leases ended in June, we flew to Oregon to move Jack and Karly out of their apartments.

(Yes, after months of quarantine, we risked airports and hotels; but we wore masks. We ate outside. We gave other people a wide berth.)

While driving around Eugene, we passed a place called Growler Guys which we immediately looked up on YELP—because that’s what we do—and we learned that besides draft ciders and beers, the Growler Guys sold…


So we googled mead—because that’s also what we do—and we wondered how mead tastes and we joked about Beowulf.

As intrigued as we were by the mead, though, we Gardners had bigger fish to fry. Like taking pictures of Jack in his cap and gown, and visiting our favorite spots at the University of Oregon.

On our last day, we were in our hotel room watching A Series of Unfortunate Events. The movie opened when Jack and Karly were young, and we love it for the nostalgia and for the message it still sends.

It’s about what constitutes a family—about togetherness and belonging.

Sanctuary, the narrator suggests, is a small, safe place in a troubling world. Like an oasis in a vast desert or an island in a stormy sea.

So we’re in this hotel room watching this movie, and I’m misty-eyed because my kids are grown-ish, and also the world is vast and stormy.

But eventually, besides getting nostalgic and misty-eyed, we Gardners got pretty hungry.

So we left the hotel to go grab some dinner at Beer Garden. Beer Garden has outdoor seating, plus food trucks and alcoholic beverages. Their website said they’d be open until 9:00 pm, but by 8:00, they were hosing the patio down and closing up their trucks.

We got the hint and left, even though we weren’t quite ready to be done yet. This was, after all, our last chance to celebrate Jack’s graduation in a town we’ve loved for years. Still, we agreed the rest of the weekend had been as wonderful as we could’ve hoped for in these vast and stormy times.

Almost every single thing had gone our way.

Then Karly said, “The only thing better would be if A Series of Unfortunate Events was replaying at the hotel so we’d be able to finish it.”

That’s when we passed Growler Guys.

Their neon sign glowed OPEN.

“Let’s get mead!” we cheered—because that’s what we do.

We parked the car and put on our masks. The young woman inside was stacking stools on tables, but she smiled and waved us in.

“I was closing early since this place was empty,” she said. “I’m glad you’re here. What can I get you?”

“WE WANT MEAD!” we told her. But they had no mead. She’d never even heard of it.

(She was young and she’d probably never googled MEAD or seen Camelot or joked about Beowulf.)

Still, our party of four was in too good a mood to lament this sad absence of mead.

Instead we ordered some ciders and sat at a table at the far end of the room.

The giant TV above us was playing…

A Series of Unfortunate Events.

See also: The movie was in the exact spot it had been when we’d left for dinner.

See also, also: Every single thing had gone our way.

Except for the mead, of course.

That one small glitch, however, was a problem my sister and brother-in-law fixed last weekend.

They ordered us mead, bought it at BevMo, and brought it to our house to celebrate Karly’s birthday.

(Note the balloons and my brother-in-law in his mask and my dog on our couch. Always.)

We turned our backyard into a socially distanced mead hall for just the six of us.

Like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with less black plague and more Covid 19.

In this troubling world, we’re a small, safe space.

They’re all the sanctuary I need.

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7 thoughts on “Pass the Mead, Please

  1. Diane McEvoy

    Sanctuary according to means “a place of refuge or safety.” I think you have truly found and/or made that place for you, your family, and the people in your world. I am also happy to join your sanctuary. Keep writing Julie, it warms our hearts.

  2. Daphne has a very special skill: She can do a pitch perfect impression of Stitch (from the movie Lilo and Stitch). She is most impressive at the whole little bit about “Ohana means family.” I am clinging to these times with the sharpest of my talons.

    • Someday we will meet in person. Your extraordinary family and mine.

      That will be a good day.

  3. I love this story. And you. And also, how was the mead?

    • Julie Gardner

      It was DELIGHTFUL! And I love you, TOOOOO!

  4. Andrew H. Collins

    If you ever get the chance, eat at an Ethiopian restaurant. Spicy savory dishes, eaten with torn of pieces of steamy Flatbread, and Ethiopian Honey Wine.

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