My best college friends and I may not have been the brightest bulbs in the box, but I assure you that we were far from the dimmest. And yet it took a global pandemic for us to realize that video conferencing was a viable way for us to raise the bar on our social engagement with each other.
In the nearly 30 years since we left Stanford—barring a single idyllic year immediately following graduation when we moved into a Palo Alto 5-minute Eichler (one of the midcentury modern quintessentially Californian open floor plan houses whose claim to infamy was that they would, apparently, if ignited, burn to the ground within 5 minutes)—the four of us have rarely lived in the same time zone, let alone the same state. And although three of us now reside in West Coast states, the fourth lives in Australia, making reunions time-consuming and costly and thus all the more precious when we manage to pull them off every other year or so.
But the coronavirus pandemic, increased social restrictions of the spring of 2020, and the resulting lifestyle and workplace modifications that followed offered an epiphany: a technology that has been available to us for decades could be applied in a social context. Like the Otero dorm first floor hallway did in the fall of 1987, Zoom would host our friendship.
Our first night on Zoom together, we talked late into the night, just as we would if we were physically together, and just as we did so many years ago as freshman, legs outstretched, sharing bits and pieces of ourselves, weaving the fabric of what would become—so far—a lifelong bond. It is a testament to our friendship that during the call and in full view of the rest of us, one friend brushed her teeth, changed into her pajamas, and climbed in bed, completing the remainder of the call all tucked in, slumber-party style. (Some say that women dress to impress other women. Well, not us.)
There is a unique comfort in remaining close with those with whom we chose to surround ourselves as we loitered on the threshold of adulthood. Peering at each other’s faces, we see through the layers, past the crow’s feet and age spots, past the greying temples, past the wrinkles that tell tales of laughter and tears and childbearing, we see each other as we once were—smooth-skinned, apple-cheeked, sturdy, muscular, and about ½” taller than we are at present. In seeing the others through this Peter Pan filter, we are able to see ourselves as we were in those years, with most of our lives still ahead of us: all that joy, all that sorrow, all that wonder, still just gifts, waiting to be unwrapped.