Every morning shortly after 9 o’clock, I call my dear friend Karen in Nevada.

We have been as close as sisters since the late 1970s when I relocated from back east to California. Along with lots of common interests, we would always chit chat for about an hour sharing what we did yesterday and the plans for that day. Both of us had many stories about our grandkids. We’d have conversations regarding our trips to visit one another, which was as much fun planning as doing! When we were anxiously awaiting our trip to Hawaii, I would sing “Oh we’re going to a hukilau” every time we spoke for over a year. Karen would laugh every time! This year’s trip, sadly was cancelled or I should say postponed due to the virus.

With sheltering in place and basic changes in our social interactions, life has taken its emotional toll on all of us. We have given up so much that I, for one, have been truly sorry for taking so much for granted. I miss hugs!

A few months ago, I was contacted by an old friend on Facebook. He asked if I was interested in reuniting with friends from elementary school on Zoom. I had heard of this and even did it once before with family so I told him, “I’m in!” I never imagined how much I would enjoy it, but seeing my classmates from over 50 and even 60 years ago was quite exciting. Not being very tech savvy, I was pointing at faces that had aged but were still beautiful. I didn’t realize I was pointing at everyone at the same time, but watching those familiar faces was a wonderful escape to my past as well as taking a much-needed break from the day to day to day to day sheltering in place. Grandpa is excellent company, but he did not know me during my school days in Island Park, New York. Reminiscing and laughing about different teachers and school trips brought us all back to a time that was more like “The Wonder Years” than the “Now I Wonder Every Day What’s Next Year.”

Zoom is really quite simple and best of all free to personal users. Apparently, they make their money from corporate meetings and other business-related groups. There is no trial period, and the number of meetings is unlimited. You have a host that sets up the time and then emails the participants with the log in number. You can easily download Zoom on your computer, tablet or phone (computer is better for seeing those faces you are missing so much) and type in the invitation number to join at the time that is preset by the host. Make sure to have your camera on and audio up so you can see and hear everyone.

If you Google Zoom, you will get a complete tutorial on how easy it is to use. The first time this group of almost 70-year-old “kids” tried it, there was a lot of adjusting the connections. A few had the angle wrong making us look up a few noses while others, like yours truly, were a tad challenged with the audio. I could hear them but they had to keep yelling, “Turn your mic on!” It was actually hilarious, but after the first time, we became quite the Baby Boomer Zoomers.

On the website, it reminds you that the meeting lasts 40 minutes, but there are ways to add to that also for free of course. It’s designed for a minimum of three or more participants and can accommodate up to 100 at a time. We are about a dozen, depending on who can make it that week, creating very lively and delightful banter. Seeing new members join in from time to time is just exciting as we share what we have been up to all these years, where we live now and how many grandchildren some of us are lucky to have.

Zoom has gifted me much-needed virtual visits with family, friends and, of course, these reuniting meetings. There have even been Zoom weddings from what I have read. I am very grateful to Marc Riess who reached out to me to begin this marvelous journey down memory lane and to the other “hometown kids” who I enjoy visiting with every other Thursday from the comfort of my home.

When I talk to Karen every morning, as I still do, I realize just how much I miss her and our Nevada family of friends. As I am sure you all do, I hope there is a vaccine and a cure very soon bringing a light to the end of this dark tunnel we find ourselves in. For me and my forever-young friends, those morning calls and using Zoom can add a little brightness. Wear your masks for you and for others around you. Stay safe and well, and I look forward to in-person hugs again.

Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at marla2054@aol.com.