Front Porch: Worth effort to meet with old friends

The message thread on Facebook is so long someone named the conversation, “Titans who don’t see each other enough.”

It began with an impromptu plan for a group of friends from high school to get together.

“Anybody up for happy hour this late afternoon/evening…total casual somewhere????” Sarah wrote.

Sarah lives in Germany so it’s true. We don’t see her nearly enough. It’s impossible to meet for brunch, a long lunch, happy hour or an evening out when you live half a world apart. When she sits down for dinner those of us in Spokane are likely still full from breakfast.

So, when Sarah comes to town we all want to get together with her, and each other. Sadly, those of us who still live in Spokane don’t see each other enough either. In fact, some of us haven’t seen each other since the last time Sarah was in town, when we all swore we needed to get together more often. We have so much fun together.

But between then and now the busyness of life crowded out planned gatherings over food and drink, our contact relegated to a series of likes and comments on Facebook.

Now, this doesn’t mean our online interaction should be frowned upon. Most of us feel that without our cyberspace medium we’d probably only see each other once a decade at an overpriced reunion.

Social media keeps us connected on the ins and outs, and ups and downs of everyday life so when we do go out for dinner and drinks the conversation is seamless, no awkward silences or lame small talk about the weather taking up valuable time.

Instead, we jump right to the good stuff and hours slip away into the laughter. But it’s hard to make it happen, even a simple happy hour.

This fact was made painfully clear last week by our attempts to coordinate schedules so we could all see Sarah together.

One friend replied that he and his wife were “a firm…maybe.”

“We’re supposed to spend the afternoon with her parents,” he wrote. “When you decide when and where, we will see if we can attend.”

Another friend responded, “I can go anytime as long as I’m home by 5 p.m.”

I was out of town and didn’t see the message until long after happy hour had passed and another classmate wrote that her family was returning from camping but wanted to connect another time.

The conflicts too many, Sarah gave up on the evening and the online conversation continued as we lobbed possible dates and times back and forth, each one met by a commitment or conflict.

Work schedules, family obligations, sports camp, a soccer tournament, a trip to Sandpoint and a visit with an ill relative made our plans a moving target. We kept swinging and missing.

After four days and 41 messages, Kirsten named the conversation, putting our feelings to words and underscoring why it’s worth the effort to keep trying, no matter how challenging it is to align our calendars. We’re friends. We don’t see each other enough. These relationships are important.

Some have seen Sarah individually but that night a few of us managed a midweek meet-up. It didn’t matter that most places close earlier on weeknights. Most of us needed to work the next day and a couple of hours is better than nothing.

As expected, we slipped into easy conversation that lasted long after we’d eaten the last bite. Closing came and table by table the other customers cleared out. Perhaps sensing our reluctance to end the evening, the owner encouraged us to stay.

“It’s no problem. We’ll be here a while,” he said, offering to get us more food or drinks as the staff began to clean the tables and sweep the floor. “Stay as long as you like. You’ve obviously been friends a long time.”

He’s right. And his easy accommodation of our friendship was another reminder to make time for the people you care about, no matter how inconvenient. That’s why we’re getting together again before Sarah flies back to Germany.

By the time her plane takes off next week our conversation will go online again but this time, I bet we begin batting around dates and times, finding a common space in our crowded calendars. Someone may even name it to show the sentiment we feel each time we connect.

“That was fun. Let’s do it again.”

Contact correspondent Jill Barville by email at jbarville@msn.com.

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