Email relationship thrives post-pandemic
March 1, 2023 | View PDF
For various reasons, I had not cleaned out my email inbox for almost a year. So, last October I spent a whole weekend purging and filing. Not surprisingly, the majority of emails were from my two friends, Linda and Janet. Hundreds of them. We three helped each other get through the Covid pandemic – what could have otherwise been a lonely time.
We've known each other since the early 1980s when we all lived in Cooper Landing and were in our 20s and 30s. My husband, Gary, and I moved there in August 1979. Linda and Mike came in 1980. Janet and John arrived in August 1981. All within a two year period. I had two children, with another daughter born in 1980. Janet's first of her three children was born in 1982 and Linda's first of three in 1983. Gary and I moved to Palmer in 1984. Janet and John left for Homer in 1986. Linda and Mike have continued to live in Cooper Landing for over 40 years now.
We've kept in contact through form Christmas letters once a year. Some names on my annual Christmas list fell off and others were added, but Linda and Janet's remained steady throughout the years. During the past decade, we added periodic phone calls and emails between the Christmas letters, but it wasn't until during COVID-19 that we began three-way emails.
In May 2020, while Linda was in Colorado to empty and sell her parent's house, she sent a couple long emails addressed to both Janet and me to tell us about her experience. By August, after no response from me, she called and we sorted out the problem. She'd accidently used my old address and I'd never received the emails. Linda contacted Janet, who luckily had saved them and forwarded them to me. Soon we had a three-way email conversation going on, about more than one topic. There was no vaccine yet and people were "hunkered down" at home, so we gradually spent more time staying connected by email.
We "chatted" about anything and everything, even something as mundane as what we cooked for dinner. We have so much in common, and we're all in our retirement years, with adult children and grandchildren. We shared our troubles and our triumphs, about ourselves and our families. All three of us enjoy quilt making, but our topics also included home repair projects, politics, food, exercise, diets, gardening, music, movies, books, doctor appointments, etc. We reminisced about our years together in Cooper Landing and just reminisced about life in general. When one of us brought up a new topic, the other two would usually chime in. Some emails were short and others were extremely long.
Of course, we didn't all agree on everything, but we respected each other's opinions. We didn't all get the COVID-19 vaccine and/or boosters. Suggestions and advice flowed. A few apologies were given and accepted, for reasons I don't remember. But that's the thing - we felt free to discuss life deeply. No matter the topic, we shared our experiences and what worked for us. We encouraged each other and asked for prayer for ourselves and our family when various situations arose.
After more than two years of intimate sharing, we know better each other's strengths and weaknesses.
My daughter said once that she thought it strange that the three of us don't talk on the phone much. But, we've even discussed that. A phone relationship really wouldn't have worked. Email was perfect. However, at times one or the other of us has felt compelled to pick up the phone, such as the fall of 2021 when I wrote that I'd been exposed to COVID-19. Within minutes, I received two phone calls, with questions and advice. Another time, Cooper Landing's internet was down for at least three days and Linda was unable to send any emails, which was alarming because she is the best of the three of us for regularly checking-in.
If someone had a question or wanted advice, we might email several times a day. But when life was extra busy and responses were slow coming, we still knew all emails were being read. Rarely more than a week would go by without each of us checking-in. If too many days went by without an email, one might write, "Haven't heard from you in a long time. Are you doing okay?" We allowed time and space for out-of-state trips and in-state visitors, but then would anticipate a report on all that happened while that person was out of the email loop.
Timing is another reason why email worked for us. We could sit down whenever we had a moment and type a brief email even if we didn't have time for a long one. It was nice to wake up and check my inbox first thing and find a morning greeting from Linda, the early riser. When I would hit "send" at 10 p.m., I knew Linda would not be reading it until the morning, so it would be silly to sign off "good night". At times one of us would compose and send an email in the middle of the night, if we couldn't sleep.
In August 2014, we were all together (husbands, too) one evening at Linda and Mike's home, while gathered in Cooper Landing for the 60th anniversary celebration of the Kenai Lake Baptist Church. More recently, John and Janet had reason to come to my house in April 2021. A couple of times Janet and Linda met in Soldotna. But, it wasn't until last summer that the three of us were together again for the first time in eight years. This was for a celebration-of-life service in June 2022, for the son of mutual friends. We now look forward to seeing each other in person again this summer in Cooper Landing for a 90th birthday celebration.
Developing a three-way email relationship during COVID-19 was not something we did on purpose. It just happened. Even after the pandemic mellowed and our life seemed more "normal," our volume of emails has not tapered off, as evidenced when I cleaned out my inbox last October. Our friendship has only deepened and grown stronger.
Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan currently residing in Palmer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.