• Sunny Gilbert

Friends old and new

I've been thinking about spending time with friends a lot lately, and what that means. And also what that might mean for making new friends now that COVID-19 has forced us all into social distancing. Gone are the days of bumping into someone at the coffee shop. There is no bumping allowed. Groups rides, if you can call them that, are zwiftly being transformed. And forget about the collective shared experience or participating in a race or event. And, that's it for the negativity.


As always, the collective human experience of friendship and community is transforming. I'm actually calling people on my phone, and talking to them. I'm writing emails and letters with clipped, copied, and pasted meal-ideas, funny videos, and instructions for how to make an origami squirrel. I've received pictures from a friend's baking cookbook for a new bread recipe. Remember chain letters? Now we have chain texts, chain emails. And trivia night - yeah, attending one by teleconference tonight - Be there and be in your square!


And it was one such chain text that got me thinking about how to make new friends. It was called My Table of 8 (Table for 9 if you count me, ha!). And it came from an old (but not old) friend.


@boulderunicorn and I have known each other since 2001. I had just moved to Boulder, CO, knew exactly two people in the area. So, as a runner, I looked up the local running store, a Fleet Feet that used to be on Pearl Street, and invited myself to the Monday Night Run. There, I met her, a unicorn with one of those rare smiles that brightens a room, a snarky sense of humor and a chortling laughter to match, and a sense of adventure that rivaled (exceeded?) my own. Friends, since. That same month, I met Amber and Eric, two people with that same adventure spirit, who also taught me to cook, without actually teaching me to cook. They complimented my Prego and Barilla pasta dinner with canned biscuits on the side! That's friendship. This was after I had been to their house for dinner and encountered more kitchen appliances and utensils than I had names for.


Years laters, 2013 to be exact, and with no idea of who introduced who to who, but who cares, this group, now living in different states, descended on the Cyclocross World Championships held in Louisville, KY. With vuvuzelas, beers, and bikes.

For making new friends, this is how we used to do it before Facebook and Instagram. Fayetteville 2022, anyone?


Sometimes you meet new best friends through other friends, work, relationships, at a birthday party. A group of ladies I love to talk to, met that way: through work and husbands. We used to live in the same place, which made friendship easy. Now the four of us all live in different places, and maybe we had fallen a little out of touch recently. With the socially acceptable movement of our interactions to electronic devices - why not connect across the miles that way? On a Saturday #staysafeathome evening in April, we celebrated Heidi's birthday, by Zoom Meeting of course, with wine, beer, and roasted marshmallows (everyone was sent a kit, with a chocolate bar, grahams, and marshmallows. They were on their own for fire). Love you Heidi, Sarah, and Stacie!


And then there are the anytime, sometime, special time friends. Like my coffee buddy Lauren. We met through cyclocross, but some of our best memories are from the Living Room coffee shop, over a latte and a cappuccino. Each meeting memorable for the shared conversation, caffeination, and the wonderful respite from the world. Through two pregnancies (hers) two job switches (mine), and many more hectic life events, we set it all aside for an hour here and there. On my last day before leaving St. Louis, amidst all the packing, the last minute cleaning, and good byes, we found time for one more coffee.

Shelby, Heidi, Sarah, Stacie, and Lauryn, I would love to introduce you to one of my oldest friends, my travel buddy friend, Katie. Some of you may have met her at one of my Thanksgivukkah celebrations. She and I have traveled the world, and experienced some amazing, and some not so amazing ("Egyptian Plague"?) things. You know you have a friend for life when you can survive 14 days on a cruise around the Middle East, with planned demonstrations, being bamboozled, getting ill, eating amazing food, getting shuttled around Cairo by a modern Egyptian God, wearing headscarves in the Blue Masque, I could go on and on.

But, what about new friends? This piece started with me thinking about how we are to make new friends in these days when every friendship is a long-distance one. Here's how: introduce a friend to a friend. Invite them to your Zoom Trivia Night, or just your regular old Zoom? A blast from my past, Jill, another adventure-seeking friend (I'm seeing a pattern...), has done just that, pre-corona, by sending me and a few other Boulder, CO folks an email, introducing her friend Karen, who had just moved to the area.


A note on Jill. When I was living in Oregon, I called her up, and said "let's do this hike I've never done before in this remote coastal area. What could possibly go wrong?" She was game, and we ended up hiking across sand dunes, a bog, through a wind storm, got briefly lost (no trail markers on a sand dune) and finally came out on one of the most remote beaches I've ever experienced. She trusts me.

Back to Karen, based on the description of things she liked to do, I immediately invited her on a spring multi-day snowshoe hut trip, and within a week we were #saferathome. That was pre-pandemic, and the mountains for all of their beautiful snow and hidden adventures, must remain pristine for the season. The 10th Mountain Division Huts were closed, snowshoe trips canceled, rightly so. I still have Karen's phone number and email, and will invite her to my next social gathering, whenever that might be. Maybe Jill, her, and I can do a Zoom conference, and be there and in our squares, in the meantime? Stay-tuned for pics?


So, that's it, Shelby, that's my Table of 8 ladies. We are going to have to pull up another chair for a new friend ;-)

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