What we gain when we love someone without regard for accomplishment
The phenomenon, I find, is quite real for me, but I have it *less* in pandemic-times. I moved halfway across the country in July and don't have anyone except my husband to casually hang out with in person. I tried, for a little while, to set up a weekly virtual stitch'n'bitch with a few other friends, but that fell out of practise quickly.
But before I moved, I did have a few friends like this! One of them moved away first, and I was very sad to see her go and I still miss her; she lived down the street from us for about six months, and I loved being able to have her over to hang out while I was working on a sewing project, spontaneously inviting her for cookies that I was just about to make, or planning an apple pie with all hands on deck for peeling. This friend also regularly accompanied us on road trips, since we were often going to the same place, and we started making a habit of buying cheese platters from Wegmans and having in-car tasting sessions. (My husband, on the other hand, describes his taste as "militantly simple" and much prefers string cheese sticks. The lack of my Cheese Friend is a big hole in my life.)
A few years ago I lived in a really excellent house; four women, all creative in some way (two musicians, an illustrator, and me, an architect), and we were roommates. The illustrator is one of my best friends and we shared the biggest room; it had a finished but unconditioned attic attached that we dubbed "the workshop" and set up our projects up there. Between the four of us, we had separately interesting social lives and a wide range of hobbies, so on basically any given day you would hear music, smell excellent cooking or baking, and have a very intense conversation with someone's friend who was visiting -- and that doesn't even account for the painting and sewing in the workshop. But we didn't run errands together so much as just vaguely hang out in the kitchen.
In the pandemic, I've tried a few times to set up regular appointments with friends, even if they're just hanging out virtually and working on something, but haven't managed to get anything new to really stick with any frequency. At least one friend has reached out to me for the same thing, and it works most of the time, but is still not the same. Being able to drop by for no reason at all and jump into the errands and flow of the day, in-person, is a far more satisfying fondness; it's what I miss the most these days, right after "come over and let me feed you," but it's also been all-too-rare in a life where my local friends are not-quite-so-local (big city local is a whole different ballgame) or few and far between.
This resonates with me so strongly. It made me think of my university days, when I lived with my best friends and we all just *were* together, all the time. There was no doubt the occasional adventure but more often than not it was just one of us sitting at the kitchen counter entertaining the person who was cooking, or doing uni work together...or just wandering in and out of rooms and seeing who was around, so you could just be with them!
Nowadays, I keep in touch with friends on the phone, and I usually make these long phone calls while I'm walking. It's a really nice way to get lost in your legs and in another person's voice. I also find that the church is a great place to be with each other non-instrumentally.
As an aside, Anne Helen Petersen had a story up about the "errand friend" which reminds me of this one and is worth a read: https://annehelen.substack.com/p/the-errand-friend.
This really resonated with me. Over the summer, when our local covid cases were very low, one of the women in my parish decided that she'd commit to doing her grocery shopping on the same evening every week. This store has a greenhouse/outside garden component, and the owners had set up picnic tables and arranged for a food truck and bar to serve customers outside. She announced (word of mouth, various parish facebook groups, etc) that she'd be there for a pre-grocery shopping drink for anyone who wanted to see another adult before their own shopping trip. It was such a good, healthy and needed thing. For me, it let me see and connect to women who I'd only "seen" or interacted with (not always positively) online for the past few months, to finally meet the babies they were pregnant with in the spring, and to practice/be encouraged by others' example of consideration for each person's level of comfort and covid-related prudence.