Teri Orr: Love in the time of Corona
A female friend texted me — well after 10 at night … hard day … love you … looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night … and it seemed a bit out of character. I am very fond of my friend but we don’t often say we love each other — it is assumed after a decade of friendship that has included great losses for each of us and great joys and victories. And I had nothing in my calendar showing we were meeting the next night. I wondered if something really bad had happened and this was shorthand.
I texted right back … Love you too — I don’t have us down for anything tomorrow — you okay? My friend who is in my same age zone — over 65 — texted right back — oh — that was meant for my husband who returns from a work trip tomorrow night — good thing I wasn’t sexting.”
I laughed so hard I spit my tea out.
It has been a full week of smart women — who are loved by clearly smart men — and few of us free agents.
Last week three of us arrived separately at a lovely home in Park Meadows to hear former New York City staff members of Mike Bloomberg talk about why their former boss would be a terrific leader for our times. It was a “friendraiser” — there was zero request for funds. We listened, we mingled and then we regrouped at a tiny neighborhood pub and ate preciously designed cauliflower-crusted pizza and unpacked our winters of some discontent and much joy. One friend — who had cancer — declared herself a poser and called her version — cancer light. After they took out the offending, misbehaving body part, she had the series of treatments and feels great. Especially after being around all the folks with far, far more serious versions and endless treatments ahead. Our other friend had moved in with her boyfriend (which always sounds odd for women after 30 — boyfriend. (Isn’t man-friend more accurate?) Still — she is happy in love and working hard on launching a new business where she is driving the train that is jumping many tracks and still seems to be on schedule. I shared that my winter of much disruption was cleanly, positively over and my health is terrific after months of stress which resulted in dropping some pounds I didn’t need to winter off of anyway.
In October, we’d met for lunch on the patio of Cafe Terigo and plotted a getaway for this spring. We needed to see that glazed carrot to push us through what we all knew would be a complicated winter. And now that we are on the other side — the plotting took on a much more committed turn. The ranch in Teton Valley awaits our journal/whiskey-carrying arrival. We have settled on mid-May when most of the snow should be melted and the animals will be wandering. Births will be matched by rebirth of the land. It should invite even more free range conversations.
Then there was the night that started with a quiet long-overdue dinner with an old friend. She and I have worked with and around each other for most all our long years in town. I admire her dedication to her craft and her life balance. We talked about city issues and journalism ideals and old clear rules that have gone sideways in the days of new reporting. Then we wandered up the street where a hopping birthday party was happening for a mutual friend whose “35th” birthday was actually her 53rd. The room had a great band and great women (and men) who were there to celebrate our mutual friend. It was a cross section of ages and walks of life and I found myself sitting next to a woman I have known for decades. We caught up on family stuff and hers included a late-in-life reveal of her birth parents. It was clear how my friend was pre-coded — quirky, smart, kind, complicated. She is planning some travel adventures but no longer in the immediate future. The Virus has derailed her overseas adventure. I shared that my life-changing, annual conference in April just sent a note — we will not be gathering in a real place and time. Discussions of a virtual conference were afoot. But my colleagues in the conference community have all written back to the organizers and we have — to a person — said we are willing to delay the gathering until such time we can be together in the same room and share our thoughts with actual facetime. People need people. The touch of a hand, the sound of laughter and full-body hugs from full-breasted women and flat-chested men and all the other hugs from all the other body shapes.
For now it appears we will be elbow-bumping and air-hugging and wiping surfaces off with chemicals hoping to keep illness at bay. We have loaded up on — over the counter medications and cleaning supplies. My shelves of books and unwatched tagged programs will certainly keep me entertained should I need to shelter in place from a virus. Making pasta dishes with dried ingredients will be great for a night or two — ditto the soups and frozen stuff that will sustain our bodies. But it won’t take long to crave fresh ingredients.
What we need however — to survive fully — is to find ways to have lifelines open. Ways that human touch can quickly return to our — about-to-be over-sanitized world. I have a stack of different occasion cards that maybe I can start writing and sending. Just little notes and seal them — not with a kiss — but nonetheless with love. So if you receive a birthday card or a holiday-long-past card from me in the next few weeks — know it comes with a virtual hug or a kiss on the cheek or a hand squeezed tightly. Those will be redeemable any future — virus-free — Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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Travel helps define our identity and culture, writes Jennifer Wesselhoff. “The real story is the people behind the data.”