friendship and food from afar

May was the first month we haven’t gathered around a table to celebrate our birthdays. Well, technically, our gathering in March had no table, just a huge swath of grass, folding camp chairs, and a gigantic circle of friends shouting at distances up to 48/pi feet. (Yes, I did the math.)

Our friendship birthday celebrations are just one way our friend group gathers. These friendships began with the priest of our parish honing in on our new mom-ness and loving us enough to recognize our real need for adult companionship. Trusting he was right, we joined together, friendships deepening as we watched our babies fall down slides, ate delicious food together on mom’s night out, and hosted playdates during the hot summers.

As our babies grew, our lives changed, as they do, and the opportunities to connect began to fall away. Sometimes friendships have a season and people are in your life for a time, and then they are not.

This could have happened to us, but we were lucky because we had a gatherer.

Every strong friend group I have been a part of in my life has at least one gatherer, a person who shepherds the group, ensuring we stay connected and loved through all of life’s phases. This particular group’s gatherer is the most extroverted person I know. Over the years, she has kept us together, encouraging us to meet as often as possible to share our lives. The threads that tenuously connected us in the beginning are now as intertwined and strong as sailing ropes.

Stay-in-place is particularly difficult for the extroverted gatherers in our lives. They want and need their people around them, so ours found a way to make it happen. Not once during these past eight weeks have I felt alone. Every night we get a text with the “Quarantine Question of the Night” which we dutifully answer, even when we have to reveal our deepest fears or our silliest thoughts. This simple nightly connection reminds us that we are still together, even when we are not, and, honestly, who doesn’t want to know what your friends would steal from your house, given the chance?

Her best idea, by far, though, is the baking rotation.

Early on, we found ourselves texting our kitchen creations, some of us obsessed with bread and Disney churros, others with cakes and Doubletree cookies. We were drooling, wishing we could gather to share each other’s delicious confections when our gatherer had an idea. She assigned each friend a delivery date and the freedom to make or create whatever she wanted.

A few days later, Doubletree cookies appeared at my doorstep and without being completely hyperbolic, I’m not sure I have ever felt more loved. We are now in week four and the treats keep coming, our schedule looping upon itself once we realized the treat deliveries were about more than desserts, they were opportunities to care.

In this time of stay at home, the small doorstep offerings from my friends have felt like individual gifts of love arriving at the perfect moments. These offerings are reminders that feeling alone has nothing to do with being isolated and everything to do with belonging.

Over the years, our friend group has done the work. We’ve put in the time, we’ve loved one another through joys and sorrows, and now we’re reaping the benefits during this most unique pandemic experience. I look forward to gathering in-person again, but until then, I’m holding tight to my rope and never letting these dear women forget how much they mean to me. Ding-dong. I can’t wait to see what packet of love arrives today!

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