“I made extra spaghetti sauce, so here is a jar for you,” says my friend Melinda. “With COVID-19 I am spending more time at home and cooking as if I am Julia Child!”

“I brought you Kung Pao chicken,” says another friend, Paula, when she arrives at my house for our noon day walk. “If you put it in the micro, it will kill any COVID germs.”

She hands it to me with gloved hands.

This sharing of food did not happen before COVID. According to an NIH study of 2009, “…acts of kindness flood the brain with dopamine, a chemical that creates a natural high.” A benefit spurred by COVID. We are trying to take care of each other. Now when I go to the grocery store, I ask my friends if they need anything to minimize the time they must spend inside a grocery store full of shoppers.

With highlighted blonde hair, hazel eyes that change color like a chameleon, Maria is attractive, and energetic. Before COVID, we met monthly in a writing group and, on occasion, socialized. With the arrival of COVID, the distance between us has shortened. She lives in Sage Meadow, and I in High Meadow, making it easy to see each other often, and we do. We have walked on the meadow between our homes, one in front of the other six feet apart. The one in the front yelling over her shoulder to the other. It is hard to hear with the six-foot distancing.

At the top of the meadow there are two benches providing a panoramic vista with a captivating view of the Cascades. We each brought a little backpack with wine and snacks, a picnic at sunset. Wine seems to have the capacity to strengthen bonds of friendship, kind of a superglue. We decided since we live alone and are in our 70s, it would be good to check in with each other each day. We text, “I’m OK. Are you OK?”

We have time on our hands, so we talk about many things when we check in with each other by phone. We are more than writing buddies now. We open ourselves to each other in a different way than we did before COVID. It is a deeper friendship.

Pamela and I were connected through our political affiliation and volunteer work. Yet, we are as different as the keys on a piano. She has fair skin, a winning smile, short blond hair, piercing blue eyes, and a willingness to help others — as in making masks for St. Charles and hiding the holes the moths made in my sweaters. I am the once-brown-haired, olive-skinned friend who does not sew. She is a very bright lady with computer skills that never fail to impress me.

Her concern for the environment is foremost. Pre-Covid, she would say, “Let’s take my car. I get great mileage.” Now if we venture to a trail out of town, we take separate cars. Before Covid, we sporadically walked together. Now, we meet Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at noon for an hour walk. She organizes a couple of other friends to meet for coffee to support local businesses and to socialize. You can see us in town on a patch of grass across from Fika, in our lawn chairs, telling stories about our lives in the 1960s and ’70s.

Hours of walking and sharing champagne on our decks opens the door to family histories, relationship struggles, and career accomplishments. COVID has given us time to nurture our relationships and to deepen the bonds of friendship. I am now closer friends with these extraordinary women. Like the support beams in a house, they have become my SP’s (support persons), and I am grateful.