One of the bright and steadying spots in my journey through the pandemic was attending my weekly Socially Distanced Neighborhood Happy Hour (SDNHH). Last April, a small group of neighbors and emerging friends began meeting on the corners of streets or on the sidewalk. It was a chance for us to connect, to share, and to laugh during such a difficult time.
We didn’t know it at the time that our weekly happy hours would become such a grounding force for all of us — and as the year chugged along, we gathered on Friday evenings no matter the weather. We made it through downpours and massive snowstorms, all of us committed to that break in our week where we could step away from Zoom and meet in person. We maintained our distance, and although we kept six feet apart, the intergenerational connections only deepened.
During our weekly meetups, kids and babies sat along with friends, neighbors and relatives. We chatted about everything and anything, sometimes placing our worries out into the open and other times exploding with laughter from a joke. During the winter, we even held a SDNHH talent show with each family performing its own version of a talent. There were skits and dances and standup comedians and inflatable palm trees to mentally take us somewhere tropical since none of us had traveled in a long, long time.
Last weekend was our one-year anniversary of SDNHH. Luckily the entire group, minus the children, are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. We were finally able to drop the “D” in the acronym and, instead of placing our chairs six feet apart, we gathered close together on the lawn and even shared joyful hugs. One friend surprised us with personalized champagne glasses to commemorate the occasion. We sipped and toasted, and we all knew that the pandemic would have been much more difficult to endure without our little group. It was a year of checking in on each other, running errands, texting about childcare woes, and delivering chicken noodle soup to doorsteps in anticipation of any ill side effects from the vaccine. Somedays I’d wake up feeling in despair to find a friendly message scrawled in sidewalk chalk. Other times it felt like an absolute delight to “dress up” for SDNHH as it was the only occasion I had on my social calendar.
While there were many painful moments during the past year, I look fondly upon my SDNHH group with such admiration and gratitude. I know that we’ll continue to meet, continue to build our friendships, and plan our next big celebration. We always must keep something special on the horizon.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.
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